Appeals Court Rejects DEA Bid To Outlaw Hemp Foods

Appeals Court Rejects DEA Bid To Outlaw Hemp Foods
Posted by CN Staff on February 06, 2004 at 16:14:13 PT
By Terence Chea, Associated Press
Source: Associated Press 
Rejecting one front of the government's drug war, a federal appeals court ruled Friday the United States cannot ban the sale of food made with natural hemp that contains only trace amounts of the psychoactive chemical in marijuana. The decision overturns the Drug Enforcement Administration's ban on the domestic sale of hemp food products. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had suspended the prohibition so judges could hear a challenge from the hemp industry, which has been allowed to sell its products while awaiting the court's decision. 
On Friday, the court said that though the DEA has regulatory authority over marijuana and synthetically derived tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the agency did not follow the law in asserting authority over hemp food products as well. "They cannot regulate naturally-occuring THC not contained within or derived from marijuana," the court ruled, noting it's not possible to get high from products with only trace amounts of the mind-altering chemical. The Hemp Industries Association, which represents more than 200 companies, had challenged the legality of the ban and applauded Friday's decision. "It validates what we've been saying along, that hemp foods have nothing to do with the drug war," said David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps and chairman of the HIA food and oil committee. "Now we can concentrate on marketing a tremendous nutritional product without the government out there harassing the marketplace." The DEA was still reviewing the decision Friday and would not comment, spokesman Bill Grant said. Department of Justice spokesman Charles Miller said federal lawyers will review to "make a determination about what the next step should be in near future." Hemp is an industrial plant related to marijuana. Fiber from the plant long has been used to make paper, clothing, rope and other products. Its oil is found in body-care products such as lotion, soap and cosmetics and in a platter of foods, including energy bars, waffles, milk-free cheese, veggie burgers and bread. Friday's decision is the culmination of a complex case. In October 2001, the DEA first declared that food products containing even trace amounts of THC would be banned under the Controlled Substances Act. The DEA ordered a halt to the production and distribution of all goods containing THC that were intended for human consumption. But in March 2002, just before those products were to be destroyed, the 9th Circuit suspended that order to decide whether federal law can classify hemp food as an illegal controlled substance like heroin. In April 2002, DEA attorney Daniel Dormont argued for the ban, telling a three-judge appeals panel that "there's no way of knowing" whether some food made with hemp could get consumers high. Hemp food sellers say their products are full of nutrition, not drugs. They say the food contains such a small amount of the active ingredient in marijuana that it's impossible to feel any drug-like effects. In June 2003, the court first overturned the DEA ban after finding the agency didn't provide enough warning or allow public comment before imposing it. In that decision, the court did not decide the ban's legality -- only that the government didn't follow proper bureaucratic procedure. But by March 2003, even before the court had made its first ruling, the DEA had solicited public comment and issued a new ban. It was the legality of that second ban the appeals court ruled against on Friday. Hemp industry officials said the decision would likely boost sales because many retailers had been reluctant to sell hemp products. "Their ban was a real setback for the industry initially," said Eric Steenstra, president of the lobbying group Vote Hemp. "But I think this ruling makes it clear that hemp food is here to stay." The case is Hemp Industries Association v. Drug Enforcement Administration, 03-71366. Associated Press Legal Affairs Writer David Kravets contributed to this report. Source: Associated Press Author: Terence Chea, Associated PressPublished: February 6, 2004Copyright: 2004 The Associated Press Related Articles & Web Sites:HIA News Hemp Links Vs. DEA Hemp Ruling in PDF Cannot Regulate Naturally-Occurring THC Rejects DEA Bid To Outlaw Hemp Foods
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