HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html A New Age of Reefer Madness
Pubdate: Sun, 09 Dec 2001
Source: Blade, The (OH)
Copyright: 2001 The Blade
Author: Ann McFeatters
Note: Ann McFeatters is chief of The Blade's national bureau.
Bookmark: (Hemp)
Bookmark: (Hutchinson, Asa)


WASHINGTON -- And now for something completely different, to borrow a 
phrase from Monty Python.

The three earnest young men burdened with plastic bags came to the office 
bearing food. Pretzels with seeds. A snack bar. An energy bar. Tortilla chips.

Never mind the caloric sin. We're talking serious evil here.

Or so the government says.

Unless you are an avid reader of the Federal Register and perused the tiny 
print of almost undecipherable bureaucratese on pages 51539 through 51544, 
you might have missed it - but the government has returned to normal.

The Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Asa Hutchinson, 
the former GOP congressman from Arkansas, has announced rules to ban 
certain brands of a wide variety of foods - beer, cheese, coffee, corn 
chips, energy drink, flour, ice cream, snack bars, salad oil, soda, and 
veggie burgers" - if they contain trace amounts of THC.

THC, as those who came of age in the 1960s know well, is 
tetrahydrocannabinol. As the DEA succinctly explains: "That's the 
hallucinogenic substance in marijuana that causes the psychoactive effect 
or high."

The THC found in certain brands of the above-mentioned food comes from 
hempseeds and hempseed oil, popular with some "natural food" manufacturers 
because they are high in protein and serve as a fatty acid supplement - 
"good fats" that doctors like. But the DEA says such foods are now 
controlled substances illegal for everyone.

Makers of foods with hempseeds or oil, with $5 million in annual sales, 
argue that the amount of THC is so infinitesimal that only inhumanly high 
consumption of them would be required to get high. They liken it to getting 
a buzz from eating the opiate-containing poppy seeds on bagels or the 
alcohol in orange juice.

But the Controlled Substances Act says that any consumption of THC is 
forbidden and that any food that contains it is no longer to be sold, 
distributed, or eaten.

Says the DEA: "If you wish to err on the side of caution, you may freely 
dispose of the product. As stated in the rules that DEA published on Oct. 
9, 2001, anyone who has purchased a food or beverage product that contains 
THC has 120 days (until Feb. 6, 2002) to dispose of the product without 
penalty under federal law."

After Feb. 6, it will be illegal to sell or import any hemp-containing foods.

The DEA, in its wisdom, notes that birdseed with cannabis seeds, clothing 
such as hats, shirts, and shoes, cosmetics, lotion, paper, rope, twine, 
shampoo, and soap, which also can contain hemp, are not illegal. "Based on 
the information currently available, DEA believes that [such products] do 
not cause THC to enter the human body and are therefore legal."

Confronted with the thought that the government is investing time, money, 
and energy in such a campaign during a time of war is, possibly, 
ridiculous, Mr. Hutchinson says, "Many Americans do not know that hemp and 
marijuana are both parts of the same plant and that hemp cannot be produced 
without producing marijuana."

Not surprisingly, supporters of food with hempseed oil have gone to court, 
beseeching the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to block the DEA 
rule. The DEA says it is permitted to issue the ban on THC-laced products 
without a formal rule-making procedure although the public may comment 
until tomorrow.

"It's like the judge announcing the verdict before the trial," complained 
John Young, a lawyer for the hemp-food lawsuit, to the National Law Journal.

Groups that are applauding the DEA action, such as the conservative Family 
Research Council, say food with hempseeds sends a pro-drug message to 
children and is camouflage for a campaign to legalize marijuana.

The other day, confronted by a man in Florida who said the government was 
not responding to his needs, President Bush muttered, "I can't stand 

Mr. Bush remembered that the cameras were rolling and said he appreciated 
"the hard-working people who care enough to work for the government. But 
what I don't like is systems that get so cumbersome that those who are 
trying to help you don't get the product out."

In the course of writing this column I have munched on the 120-calorie corn 
chips, the 220-calorie pretzels, and the 170-calorie snack bar. In truth, I 
feel nothing but my waistband. And a curious desire to watch Monty Python's 
Flying Circus.
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