Overview On DEA Proposals to Ban Hemp

May 8, 2008

As Americans have become more health and environmentally conscious, the demand for hemp products has grown substantially. Hemp seed oil is one of the best natural sources of the two essential fatty acids that our bodies can’t manufacture and we just can’t live without. In addition to its health properties, hemp oil has potential as an alternative to petroleum-based fuels and plastics, and its fiber could replace trees as the primary source of pulp for paper and timber for construction. Perhaps most importantly, hemp can be grown without the use of chemical pesticides because of its natural resistance to pests.

Indeed, the future potential of hemp seems boundless, but dangerous obstacles lie ahead. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is currently working to make many hemp products illegal, including nutritional supplements and hair and skin care products. The DEA wants to ban any hemp product that is ingested or applied topically.

Since hemp products contain naturally occurring trace amounts of THC — the main psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana — the DEA says hemp products must be outlawed because they are confounding the federal drug testing programs. For the record, hemp products do not cause a psychoactive “high.” Similarly, eating poppy seeds does not have the same effect on a person that consuming heroin does, yet consumers of poppy seeds sometimes test positive for opiates.

Of note, the Department of Justice, in a letter to the DEA, reported that the THC levels in hemp products are too low to trigger the psychoactive high associated with marijuana, and they are not purchased, sold, or marketed with the intent of having a psychoactive effect.

The DEA’s main argument is that the consumption of hemp products and the use of marijuana are indistinguishable in drug tests, and that diminishes the government’s ability to identify marijuana users through current tests.

Contrary to the DEA’s position, recent evidence shows that the consumption of hemp products does not affect the outcome of drug tests. A study commissioned by the Canadian government concluded that “persons who frequently consume food items containing hemp seeds and oil are very unlikely to fail a workplace urine test for marijuana.”

Any day now, the DEA will formally propose its new regulations to ban numerous hemp products. While most new regulations must undergo a 30-day public comment period, it is unclear whether the DEA will allow any opportunity for comment whatsoever. There is no time to waste.

References: Coalition to save Hemp

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