HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Let Them Eat Hemp?
Pubdate: Tue, 11 Dec 2001
Source: Hartford Courant (CT)
Address: 285 Broad St., Hartford, CT 06115
Contact:  2001 The Hartford Courant
Fax: (860) 520-6941
Author: William Weir
Bookmark: (Hemp)


Plan To Make Food Containing It Illegal Draws Protest

MIDDLETOWN -- Earlier this week, a group of Wesleyan University students 
handed out pretzels to passersby in front of the U.S. Drug Enforcement 
Administration office in Hartford.

Though tasty and nutritious, those "hemp seed pretzels" could soon become a 
controlled substance in the same category as marijuana and heroin, should a 
DEA proposal go through as planned, said student Booth Haley.

According to the proposal, any business or individual in possession of a 
hemp food product that bears even trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol, or 
THC, after Feb. 6 would be in violation of laws that prohibit possession of 
a "schedule I controlled substance," a classification that includes 
marijuana and heroin. THC is the chemical that gives marijuana its 
hallucinatory effects.

The agency is allowing a 120-day grace period for businesses to rid their 
inventories of the products. The DEA announced the change Oct. 9. 
Technically, the regulation would not be a new law, but a new 
interpretation of existing ones regarding marijuana. Spokeswoman Rogene 
Waite said it could be changed by Feb. 6.

The Wesleyan students' demonstration was one of several in the nation 
organized by a national organization called Students for a Sensible Drug 

Opponents of the proposal say the hemp part of the cannabis plant contains 
so little THC that it would be virtually impossible to get high off any 
product that uses it. Haley said banning hemp products based on their level 
of THC is like banning poppy seeds for their trace amounts of opiates. Many 
speculate that the new interpretation is due to the complications hemp 
products cause in drug testing. Often, people who test positive for 
marijuana claim they had recently ingested a hemp food product. The DEA 
says that it is simply staying consistent in regard to its drug laws. Hemp 
products on the market include pasta, waffles, bread, snack bars and hemp 
nut butter, which are sold at several health food stores in the state. At 
Earth Balance in Simsbury, owner Kathy Pianka extolled the virtues of hemp, 
calling it a "complete food" high in protein and essential fatty acids. She 
said her own hemp-based products have proven popular. Pianka said she 
thinks the main reason for the proposal is that people just don't know 
enough about hemp.

"I think there's a big misconception that it's just like marijuana," she said.

Although the proposal would have a significant effect on the hemp industry 
nationwide, she said, it would make only a small dent in her business. 
Exactly how these new rules will play out is unclear at this point, said 
DEA spokesman Tom Hinojosa. While businesses selling these products would 
clearly be in violation, he said, the case of an individual in possession 
of one is a "gray area." Ultimately, he said, it will be up to the U.S. 
attorney's office and Department of Justice to decide how to prosecute 
these cases.

"I don't think a cop's going to stop you on the street and say, 'Hey, 
what's in the pasta?'" he said.
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