Hemp is Not Pot

Kenex, Ltd., a Canadian agricultural firm that grows and processes hemp oil, seed and fiber products in Canada for distribution throughout the United States, has filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. government under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Kenex is filing this NAFTA action because the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has previously impeded and, through its recent ruling, seeks to prevent Kenex from accessing American markets for its hemp food products, on which the firm depends for over three-quarters of its business.

On October 9, 2001, without public notice or opportunity for comment, the DEA issued an interpretive rule purporting to make hemp foods containing any traces of naturally occurring tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient found in marijuana, immediately illegal under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1971.

Because trace THC does not pose any potential for abuse as a drug, the U.S. Congress had exempted non-viable hemp seed and oil from control under the Controlled Substances Act.

In the same way, Congress exempted poppy seeds from the act, although they contain trace opiates otherwise subject to control.

Jean Laprise, the president of Kenex says, "A few million dollars would not even begin to cover the cost of the financial hardships Kenex has suffered through DEA's harassment of our business and the hemp food marketplace in general. Since the DEA's new rule was announced, our U.S. hemp seed and oil sales have virtually ceased. If the DEA is not stopped, we are finished. Tallying our current and future losses, we expect to be compensated at least $20 million under NAFTA."

Kenex president Jean Laprise (left), in a Kenex hemp field with former Canadian Minister of Agriculture Noble Villeneuve (Photos courtesy Kenex)

Popular hemp foods include pretzels, tortilla chips, energy bars, waffles, bread, salad dressing, candy, cereal, ice cream and even non-dairy milk.

The government of Canada, in response to the DEA's new rule, stated that, "In reviewing the interim rule there is no evidence that the effective ban on relevant Canadian food products on the U.S. market is based on any risk assessment. Therefore, Canada objects to these measures."

Sterilized hemp seeds have been available in the U.S. for decades and are recognized as an exceptional source of protein, omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids and Vitamin E. Independent studies and reviews conducted by foreign governments have confirmed that trace THC found in the increasingly popular hemp foods cannot cause psychoactivity or other health effects, or result in a confirmed positive urine test for marijuana, even when unrealistically high amounts of hemp seed and oil are consumed daily.

"Hemp seeds and oil are as likely to be abused as poppy seed bagels for their trace opiate content, or fruit juices because of their trace alcohol content," Kenex says. "Yet, DEA has not banned poppy seed bagels despite their trace opiates that have interfered with workplace drug testing, which hemp foods do not."

British businesswoman Anita Roddick, an investor in Kenex and founder of The Body Shop, which markets a successful line of hemp oil based cosmetics, said, "The blind prejudice and bloodymindedness of the DEA takes my breath away, especially when its actions are in direct contradiction to Congress. This is one instance when we have to invoke NAFTA. Without its protection, the future is bleak for hemp companies like Kenex."

In 1999, U.S. Customs at the behest of DEA impounded a Kenex shipment of hemp birdseed. Customs relinquished the shipment only after an experienced legal team demonstrated that the seizure was not justified by either the law or common sense, and the "New York Times" published an embarrassing expose.

In addition to its recent attempt to ban the sale of hemp foods, the U.S. is the only major industrialized nation to prohibit the growing and processing of hemp.


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