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The Body Shop: Letter to the DEA

Posted on August 28, 2000

To: The Honorable Donnie Marshall
Acting Administrator
Drug Enforcement Administration
Street Address
Washington, DC 20537

Dear Acting Administrator Marshall:

My company, The Body Shop, has been an international pioneer in the renaissance of industrial hemp. We campaign so passionately on its behalf not only because hempseed oil has proved so successful for us — our hemp range of skin care products will account for almost 4 per cent of total sales in 2000 (our annual sales in 1999 were $996 million) — but also because we believe its countless applications make industrial hemp equally promising for other businesses.

It has come to my attention that the DEA is considering new regulations which would prohibit the sale of The Body Shop’s hemp lip balms, oils, creams, shampoos and conditioners in the US. (These products are currently sold in 1,600 shops in over 100 countries.)

I strongly urge you not to adopt these misguided regulations. They would be damaging to our business and they are wrong in regard to the very nature of hemp, one of nature’s most useful, beneficial plants.

As I understand it, under the proposed Interpretative Rule, the DEA would declare any personal care products that contain any amounts of THC to be a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance — even though such products are made from portions of the cannabis plant that are excluded from the definition of marijuana.

This proposed rulemaking apparently stems from claims put forth by the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s director, General Barry McCaffrey, who has stated that “Recently, Cannabis sativa L seeds and oil, pressed from those seeds, have been imported for human consumption in various forms of hemp products. These later offerings include topical solutions, [emphasis mine] as well as products specifically designed for ingestion. Such applications for human consumption are confounding our Federal drug control testing programs, if they contain THC, and are of significant concern.”

The Body Shops’ hemp personal care products contain small amounts of hemp oil, which has little or no THC. There is no scientific evidence that any topical application of these products can convey any amount of THC into the body. And, as you are aware, there is well-established research in Canada that permits a level of 10 parts per million (.001 per cent) THC in hemp oil as impossible of producing any psychoactive effects.

Further, a recent toxicological study commissioned in part by the Canadian federal and the Manitoba provincial governments concluded “persons who frequently consume food items containing hemp seeds and oil are very unlikely to fail a workplace urine test for marijuana.” If ingestion of the equivalent of a half pound of hempseed per day does not cause a positive drug test, it stands to reason that topical application of much smaller amounts of hemp oil could not do so, either. Such reports would seem to answer concerns about the “confounding” of drug testing programs.

But don’t take our word for it alone. In March of this year, the Department of Justice stated what should be obvious: shampoos and conditioners, lip balms, soaps, oils and creams that contain hemp oil which may contain microscopic amounts of THC are not controlled substances. They do not promote “highs”: They are simply very high quality health products, now bought by millions of health-conscious customers around the world from our shops.

Responding to an inquiry from your agency about hemp usage in nutritional supplements, John Roth, Chief, Narcotic & Dangerous Drug Section, Department of Justice, wrote to you in March of this year:

“Many of these products have tested positive for the presence of small amounts of naturally occurring tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). I have been informed that those hemp products intended for human consumption have THC at levels too low to trigger a psychoactive effect, and are not purchased, sold or marketed with the intent of having a psychoactive effect” [emphasis mine].

He further states that:

“Under the Controlled Substances Act, ‘The mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil or cake or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination are excluded from the definition of marihuana.’ Therefore, products derived from this portion of the cannabis plant commonly referred to as ‘hemp’ are explicitly excluded from regulation under the Controlled Substance Act.’’

As for claiming that any amount of THC defines a controlled substance, Mr. Roth explained, ”It has been suggested that ‘hemp’ products containing THC are subject to regulation under 21 U.S.C. S812©(17). However, [this statute] refers only to synthetic THC, not the THC naturally occurring within marijuana. Several courts of appeal have also held that the THC referred to in the statute is synthetic THC. No courts have held to the contrary, and we consider this well settled law.

Thus, it appears we are not able to regulate or prohibit the importation of ‘hemp’ products based on any residual or trace content of naturally occurring THC” [emphasis mine].

And the distinction between marijuana and hemp is further described:

“We have considered the so-called ‘marijuana derivatives’ argument. Courts have held, for example, that hashish and other products are Schedule I controlled substances, notwithstanding the fact that they are not specifically listed within the statutory definition of marijuana. Courts have so held because of the obvious congressional intent to criminalize marijuana products derived from the marijuana plant, which have the same narcotic effects as marijuana itself.”

With ‘hemp’ by contrast, Congress has made its intent known by specifically excluding these products from its definition of marijuana [emphasis mine].”

Mr. Roth concludes,

“It is our legal opinion that we presently lack the authority to prohibit the importation of ‘hemp’ products, absent regulatory language that interprets, or legislative action to modify, the definition of marihuana.”

I draw your attention to the phrases, “well settled law” and “Congress has made its intent known” re. hemp. It appears to me that DEA’s response — the proposed new regulatory language — is an effort to circumvent the established history of judiciary rulings and the explicit purpose of congressional law as outlined by the Department of Justice. This is a bureaucratic usurpation of the express will of the judicial and legislative branches of government. It is wrong.

Again, I strongly urge you not to adopt these misguided regulations. They are grounded in misunderstanding, and will have enormously damaging effects on my business and many other international businesses currently involved in the import and export of hemp seed and oil.

Be assured that The Body Shop International will vigorously seek appropriate remedies in every possible national and international forum if such regulations were to be adopted.

Sincerely,

Anita Roddick, OBE
Founder and Co-Chair, The Body Shop

Copyright © 2000, The Body Shop. All rights reserved.