Ninth Circuit Court Blocks DEA Hemp Rule

Late Wednesday (4/16) the Ninth Circuit federal court granted the hemp industry's Motion to Stay the US Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA's) "Final Rule," which was issued March 21, 2003 and would have banned the sale of nutritious hemp foods containing harmless trace amounts of naturally-occurring THC under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970. This "Final Rule" is virtually identical to an "Interpretive Rule" issued on October 9, 2001 that never went into effect because of a Ninth Circuit Court Stay issued on March 7, 2002.

Both Motions to Stay were brought jointly by the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) and several major hemp food companies in the US and Canada. The court is currently hearing a substantive challenge to the Final Rule, and in light of today's ruling, the hemp industry is optimistic that the Court will ultimately invalidate the DEA's rule. One of the prime criteria in granting the Stay was whether the hemp industry is likely to ultimately prevail on the merits of the case.

Because trace infinitesimal THC in hemp seed is non-psychoactive and insignificant, the US Congress exempted non-viable hemp seed and oil from control under the CSA, just as Congress exempted poppy seeds from the CSA, although they contain trace opiates otherwise subject to control. The hemp industry is assuring retailers and consumers that hemp food products should continue to be stocked, sold and consumed. Joe Sandler, counsel for the HIA, stated: "The Court's order effectively prevents DEA from enforcing its 'Final Rule.' With this stay in effect, all those who sell, import, manufacture, distribute and retail edible hemp oil and seed, and oil and seed products, can continue those activities secure in the knowledge that such products remain perfectly lawful."

Hemp seed has a well-balanced protein content and the highest content of essential fatty acids (EFAs) of any oil in nature: EFAs are the "good fats" that, like vitamins, the body does not produce and requires for good health. Dr. Udo Erasmus, an internationally recognized nutritional authority on fats and oils, writes in Fats that Heal -- Fats that Kill: "Hemp seed oil may be nature's most perfectly balanced oil." Not surprisingly, shelled hemp seed and oil are increasingly used in natural food products, such as corn chips, nutrition bars, hummus, nondairy milks, breads and cereals. In the last few years, the hemp foods industry has grown from less than $1 million a year to over $5 million in retail sales.

North American hemp food companies voluntarily observe reasonable THC limits similar to those adopted by European nations as well as Canada and Australia. These limits protect consumers with a wide margin of safety from any psychoactive effects or workplace drug-testing interference. The DEA has hypocritically not targeted food manufacturers for using poppy seeds (in bagels and muffins, for example) even though they contain far higher levels of trace opiates. The recently-revived global hemp market, with retail sales of over $250 million worldwide, is a thriving commercial success. Unfortunately, because the DEA's drug war paranoia has confused non-psychoactive industrial hemp varieties of cannabis with psychoactive "marihuana" varieties, the US is the only major industrialized nation to prohibit the growing of industrial hemp.

View or download a PDF copy of the Court's order staying DEA's rule.

News release from Vote Hemp.

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