Source: Washington Post (DC)
Author: Caroline E. Mayer, Washington Post Staff Writer
Published: Saturday, February 7, 2004; Page E01
Copyright: 2004 Washington Post
Contact: [email protected]
Federal drug police don't have the authority to take hemp food products off the market, a federal appeals court ruled yesterday.
A unanimous three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco said the Drug Enforcement Administration cannot regulate hemp in food because such "non-psychoactive hemp products" are not included in its list of dangerous drugs.
The ruling is a twist in an ongoing battle between drug regulators and a growing number of entrepreneurs and farmers producing a growing variety of hemp food products, including bread, granola, waffles, pretzels and chips. The industry marketed the hemp products as one the latest nutritional marvels, rich in protein, vitamin E and two essential fatty acids.
In October 2001, the DEA banned hemp foods that contained THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive ingredient that is also found in marijuana. The agency gave stores and manufacturers three months to stop selling hemp foods. It continued to allow the sale of hemp paper, rope and clothing, because, unlike food, these goods were not intended for human consumption.
The Hemp Industries Association immediately challenged DEA's rule, saying the food products contain little if any THC, no more than the amount of opiate in a poppy-seed bagel. At the industry's request, the appeals court froze the DEA rule until it ruled.
DEA spokeswoman Rogene Waite said the agency would not comment until it reviewed the ruling.
Industry officials are planning new sales. "This ruling is really going to blow things open, really open up the marketplace," said David Bronner, who as chairman of the trade association's food and oil committee, led the legal battle against DEA. Bronner said he is working on how his firm, Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, could sell its latest product, a nutrition bar containing hemp nuts.
The dispute with DEA has probably helped increase sales of hemp foods, officials said. Two years ago, they accounted for about $5 million in sales; today, their sales range between $7 million and $10 million, Bronner said.
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