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Hemp Food Fights

Hemp foods, containing healthy hemp seeds and oil, are under attack by a DEA law banning any foods with THC, and according to at least one company, the "market is dying" because of scare tactics. Some hemp food manufacturers and legalization advocates are at odds over how to deal with the law.
You might think Richard Rose, founder of HempNut Inc., which he says is the first and one of the largest hemp food companies in the country, would have a lot in common with advocates for the legalization of marijuana and the group Vote Hemp (on the internet at
But currently the two groups are butting heads over a Drug Enforcement Association (DEA) law passed in October prohibiting the presence of any THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) in foods that contain hemp seeds and oil. While the Vote Hemp activists think fighting the law is imperative for the right to use hemp, Rose thinks they are "killing the [hemp seed] market" with their efforts to oppose the law.
Rose said doesn't have a problem with the law because, he says, since 1994 their products have been completely THC-free. Most other hemp food companies also have THC-free products, he notes. The DEA rule includes an exception for non-food products, allowing them to contain some THC. The hemp market has grown exponentially over the last decade, to about $25 million in 2000 up from $1 million in the early '90s.
"For the first time ever the DEA officially made non-food products legal even if they contain THC, such as body care, clothes and paper, and made hemp foods legal as long as they do not contain THC," Rose said. "This is a big change in policy for them, a legitimization of hemp's legal status, and a very positive step forward."
But other hemp advocates, including proponents of the legalization of marijuana and hemp industry professionals, are opposing the DEA rule and have filed a lawsuit against it. The Hemp Industries Association and other plaintiffs have filed for an urgent motion to invalidate the rule and mandate a public comment period before any new law takes effect. (A spokesperson at the DEA in Washington did not return a call for this story.)
As explained on the Vote Hemp web site, as is the law is the equivalent of banning poppy seeds from food for their trace amounts of the chemical active in opium and heroin.
The Vote Hemp group want the DEA to open a public comment period before making any law relating to THC in hemp foods, and then they want an exact standard that determines whether a product has over an allowable amount of THC or not.
"The DEA's planned new rules will cause substantial harm to hemp businesses and consumers alike and are not based on any real threat or abuse potential," says the web site. "Like poppy seed, hemp seed is clearly exempt from the Controlled Substances Act."
Rose said he does not want the DEA to set any kind of measurement standard for THC, as Vote Hemp is urging.
"If the DEA tells us how to test it they will give us a super strict drug standard, when we want a simple agricultural standard," said Rose.
He said all the publicity over the law has made retailers afraid to sell hemp products.
"Our market is dying, sales are down 75 percent," bemoaned Rose. "The DEA didn't have to lift a finger [to attack hemp foods] -- the activists are doing it for us."
One thing both sides agree on is that hemp foods are extremely healthy and tasty.
"Hemp is 31 percent protein and nine percent omega 3 [an essential fatty acid]," said Rose. "That's more than you will get in meat or fish."
A press release from his company notes that hempseed "tastes like sunflower seed, and can be used in almost any recipe." HempNut produces, among other things, organic blue corn chips, a whole food bar, chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter, lip balm, a cheese alternative and the Hempeh (registered trademark) veggie burger.
"The DEA does not want to acknowledge the truth of hemp seed and oil foods," says the Vote Hemp web site. "That they are a superior nutritional resource for Americans."



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