DEA reportedly will propose new restrictions on hemp food products, ignore plea by farmers and businesses to allow hemp crops in the US
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Industrial hemp is a viable crop with some of the longest and strongest natural fibers in the plant kingdom and with thousands of potential uses. The crop, grown by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, produces an extremely versatile fiber and oil that can be used in various applications including clothing, fuel, paper, cosmetics, animal bedding, automobile parts, food, rope, textiles, carpeting, etc.
Industrial hemp is not a drug. Though it is the same species as marijuana, it is a completely different variety of plant (similar to comparing a Chihuahua with a St. Bernard). It has a much lower content of the psychoactive component, THC, than marijuana. Cumulative studies in Europe and Canada have shown that industrial hemp is not psychoactive. Therefore, smoking it will only give you a headache, not a high. It is analogous to consuming poppy seed bagels or non-alcoholic beer — although these foods both have a small psychoactive component, people do not abuse them.
Due to bureaucratic red tape and over zealousness on the part of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, industrial hemp cannot be commercially grown in the United States. We were recently informed by Hawaii State Representative Cynthia Thielen that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is preparing to propose new rules regulating industrial hemp. Representative Thielen has learned that, among other changes, the new rulings would declare any product containing any amount of THC to be a Schedule I Controlled Substance — the most restrictive category for controlled substances — with the exception of industrial hemp products not used or intended for human consumption, such as paper, clothing and rope.
Currently, the United States allows for the import, manufacture, sale and consumption of hemp foods such as granola bars, cereals, oils, etc. The forthcoming likely rulemakings are of great concern because they would prevent hemp manufacturers, whether foreign or domestic, to sell in the U.S. not only hemp foods, but also various other hemp products — such as shampoo and lip balm — that contain industrial hemp. By restricting the market for these industrial hemp products in America, the DEA would limit industrial hemp’s potential economic and environmental benefits here as well.
In a letter written in July to US Congresswoman Patsy Mink (D-HI), Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey rationalized this position by stating that hemp food products are “confounding our Federal drug control testing programs.” However, a recent study funded by the Canadian government and the North American Industrial Hemp Council concluded that people who frequently consume food items containing hemp seeds and oil are very unlikely to fail a workplace urine test for marijuana.
Furthermore, the likely rulemakings do not address the inability of farmers to grow industrial hemp in the United States. The specifications surrounding the growth of the crop, namely the security requirements, are a de facto ban on industrial hemp growth in the United States. If the United States continues to treat the actual plant as a Schedule I Controlled Substance, it will continue to make it impossible for farmers to grow the crop.
While American farmers are forbidden from commercially growing this crop, American manufacturers are allowed to import industrial hemp from China and other nations and manufacture hemp products. In the current farm crisis, farmers need alternative crops and hemp will likely be more profitable than other commodity crops. According to the Institute for Local Self Reliance, in 1999 hemp yields grossed $308 to $410 per acre. These figures compare favorably to the $103-$137 gross made on canola and wheat crops per acre. Moreover, the market for industrial hemp has been greatly underestimated by the U.S. government. For instance, the use of natural fibers in bio-composites (such as automobile parts) is predicted to grow by 15-20 percent annually. And hemp is expected to be an important commodity for this market due to its favorable strength to weight ratio.
In addition to being a potentially economically viable crop, industrial hemp can also benefit the environment. It can replace wood fiber in most applications, such as building products and paper, aiding forest conservation efforts. It can minimize toxics in the environment, because when used in pulp for paper, its natural brightness avoids chlorine bleaching that produces dioxin, a powerful environmental toxin. It is also an excellent crop that needs few, if any, pesticides and herbicides, and used in rotation it chokes out weeds. Therefore, crops grown on the same field after hemp have shown increased yields. Industrial hemp also has a potential to be one of the bio-based fuels that could replace petroleum as a fuel source, thereby benefiting both national security and the environment. This benefit has attracted the support of ex-CIA director James Woolsey, who wants industrial hemp to be grown in the U.S.. Furthermore, its use in automobile bio-composites decreases energy consumption and these new components are more easily recycled than current auto parts, which are made of fiberglass.
As a result of its utility and its many benefits, industrial hemp has been experiencing a renaissance and is being grown by most industrialized countries throughout the world, with the exception of the United States. Countries such as Canada, England, Germany and France recognize its value and grow the crop, leaving the United States at a competitive disadvantage.
In March of 1998 a coalition of individuals and organizations — including private businesses and non-profit organizations — submitted a petition to both the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) requesting that the agencies initiate rulemaking proceedings that would lead to the enactment of regulations permitting the domestic production of industrial hemp. Despite the prominence of many of the signers and a clearly and rationally argued case that marijuana and industrial hemp are different, there has been no response from either the DEA or the USDA to date. Sitting on this petition is an arbitrary and capricious display of administrative behavior.
The Drug Enforcement Administration and other federal agencies are greatly out of touch with the American public in enforcing their medieval rules regarding industrial hemp. In August 1999, U.S. Customs blocked a shipment of sterilized industrial hemp birdseeds at the Canadian-United States border. Meanwhile, Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey has lobbied against any moves by the states to take legislative action to address industrial hemp. In the past three years 19 states have introduced pro-industrial hemp resolutions. Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Tennessee introduced pro-industrial hemp legislation. And, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Vermont and Virginia have passed industrial hemp legislation and resolutions.
In its most recent assault against industrial hemp, federal agents raided the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, destroying a hemp crop that was legally planted under the sovereignty of the Oglala Sioux tribe.
These actions by the United States government are ensuring that while Canadian and other farmers prosper from industrial hemp, American farmers are unlikely to see its benefits anytime soon. The Drug Enforcement Administration’s intrusion into the realm of agriculture is preventing American farmers from growing a crop that has the potential to help address the global depletion of forest resources, the dependency on foreign oil, the harmful effects of petrochemicals, the excessive use of pesticides for fiber crops, and the economic depression of farming communities.
Vice Presidential candidate Winona Laduke criticizes federal invasion of Oglala reservation
DEA, FBI destroy agricultural test plots at Pine Ridge
White Earth Reservation, Minnesota — Green Party vice-presidential candidate Winona LaDuke today criticized the recent invasion of the Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation by armed federal agents. On Aug. 24 in the early morning, 25 armed agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Marshals Service, and Northern Plains Safe Trails Drug Task Force uprooted two test plots of industrial hemp planted on reservation land.
Calling the actions “incredibly short-sighted” and “an act of vandalism,” LaDuke said that, “the raid was a violation of Oglala Lakota sovereignty, and an affront to genuine efforts at tribal self-sufficiency in the face of daunting economic odds.”
LaDuke pointed out that industrial hemp, which was grown by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, has more than 25,000 uses and provides financial returns almost three times the value of wheat or canola, and represents a chance for farmers and American Indians to finally be more self-sufficient.
Ironically, when President Clinton made his poverty tour and visited Pine Ridge, he said he was appalled at the poverty and made vast gestures toward economic development; now Clinton’s DEA agents have gutted one of the most promising and self-sufficient projects started on the reservation.
“Industrial hemp is potentially a very important crop for that area,” LaDuke said. “It offers farmers a viable crop that produces well under the poor growing conditions there.” LaDuke pointed out that industrial hemp can be used to make fabric, paper and rope, and can be used as a building material, which was the use intended for part of this crop.
Industrial hemp, unlike its close relative marijuana, has relatively little tertrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient that gives marijuana users a “high.” Despite the results of tests performed at the University of Mississippi that could detect no amount of THC in the plants in question, and despite tests administered previous to the invasion by a criminal investigator from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and with the cooperation of those who planted the test plot, the raid was carried out.
“The growing of any marijuana plant is illegal unless the DEA issues a permit after enforcing appropriate safeguards against the misuse of the plants,” U.S. Attorney Ted McBride said in a news release last Thursday.
“The DEA is totally out of line,” LaDuke said. “Documented studies of this hemp plant and others prove that this crop is less than l% THC, and not a drug that could be utilized for smoking. The DEA should respond to petitions by thousands of Americans, state legislators, state agricultural officials and companies, and American farmers requesting they decriminalize the crop, and allow our farmers a chance at a growing market now dominated by imports from Canada, France and China.”
“We don’t need small businesses worrying that the DEA in its zest will now bust and confiscate hemp fiber shoes, carrying bags or other products that are now part of American culture. Those products are made from the same type of hemp confiscated from Alex White Plume’s hemp crop,” LaDuke said.
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