New DEA rule legalizes hemp

SEBASTOPOL, California — Beginning April 21, 2003, Cannabis Hemp will be legal to import, under a new Rule recently issued by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The Rule is a clarification of the gray area under which hemp importers have operated for years, namely, that hemp is exempt from drug laws even if it contains trace amounts of the drug Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), found in almost all Cannabis.

While UN Treaties and the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 allow for legal importation of and commerce in Cannabis Hemp products per se, until now no formal exemption was made for the drug THC which can be found in trace amounts in some hemp products, such as textiles, clothes, paper, industrial oil, cosmetics, and shampoo. Although there is no concern that this trace THC is being diverted to drug uses, it was nevertheless of concern to those in the business of importing and/or selling popular hemp items, including such large companies as The Body Shop, Patagonia, Armani, and Staples Office Supplies.

The new DEA Rule also clarified that hemp for human consumption may not contain any THC, which is the basis by which all responsible hempseed importers have operated for years. (For 5,000 years it has been one of mankind’s oldest and most important food crops, as hempseed is a very good source of omega-3 essential fatty acids and complete protein, and is used in many natural foods and nutraceuticals.) In theory, even trace THC on hempseed can cause a positive drug test, so good manufacturing practices require it to be removed by cleaning or shelling before using in food.

Some fear that DEA’s new reasonable position regarding hemp imports might be a trojan horse, an attempt to lull the industry into compliance before striking. But public statements by the recent DEA Director and a DEA spokesman reveal that DEA is making a good faith effort to ease the burden on hemp importers, without compromising public safety. And considering the agency’s recent crackdown on medicinal marijuana clubs and pot pipe makers, one would hope DEA’s new openness on hemp would be a welcome sight to suspicious hemp importers and activists.

“It’s understandable that the layperson might be suspicious of DEA’s intentions, considering its track record,” said Richard Rose, President of HempNut, Inc., Director of the Hemp Food Association, and the father of the modern American hempseed foods movement. “But it’s very clear to those of us who daily accept the risks associated with the business of importing food-grade hempseed that DEA wants to be rid of the burden of regulating a non-drug food and fiber crop, without appearing to be soft on drugs. We should all applaud DEA’s efforts to legalize hemp the only way the agency can, since it’s up to Congress to change the law,” says Rose.

By removing the uncertainty for the 95% of hemp imports not for human consumption, DEA has opened the door for investment and legitimization of the industry. For instance, the loss of the market for bird seed in 1999 was particularly hard on a farmer’s hempseed co-operative in Canada, which was stuck with thousands of tons of hempseed but no demand. With the new Rule DEA paves the way for re-opening that market, and the expansion of new ones.

Hempseed importers have previously announced their ability to comply with the new Rule concerning hempseed for human consumption. All now comply with the Rule, some for years. Recent negative publicity has resulted in a market implosion for these foods greater than DEA could have accomplished, and many hemp food companies have gone out of business or dropped products. By clarifying what is necessary to achieve DEA-exempt legal status for hemp as food, DEA has removed a significant legal barrier for importers. It is expected that this clarification will ease the confusion for all parties involved in importing hempseed.

Since hempseed is the value driver for hemp farmers, and US farmers need an existing market before they will be allowed to plant hemp, this Rule is likely the first step DEA will use to transfer authority for hempseed as a food crop to the US Department of Agriculture, which had jursidiction until 1970.

In the latest version of the Rule, DEA includes many of the more popular comments from the 115,000 it received from the public, as well as their answers to them. Comparing the initial version of the Rule with the most recent one, clearly they are going far out of their way to explain it, and to show that they are in good faith. DEA took the public’s comments to heart, made the new Rule more understandable by explaining more of it, and has taken steps to show that the Rule is necessary, legal, and compliance obtainable.

If one compares the initial version of the Rule to the latest, the number of words increased by 34% for the Clarification, and 24% for the Exemption, for a total of 14,428 words, an increase of 27%. Coupled with the fact that DEA is allowing a Schedule I Controlled Substance to be imported legally for the first time (on hemp not for human consumption), and this is an extraordinary event in the history of DEA and hemp! Legal hemp, legal THC on hemp, and a public explanation about it as long as a many books.

For more information, contact:

Hemp Food Association

Copyright © 2003, Hemp Food Association. All rights reserved.

(Vgl. Meldungen vom 2003-03-28 und 2003-03-21.)


Global Hemp-News vom 2003-03-31.