DEA loses hemp food ban

The US government has been ordered to let edible hemp products into the country. On September 28, 2004, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) lost a major court battle to ban hemp food products from shelves across the country.
In March 2003, the DEA told America that hemp was illegal, prompting a court challenge by the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) that ended in the 9th Circuit Court. In February 2004, the 9th Circuit Court unanimously ruled that the DEA had failed to follow federal guidelines which specifically exempted hemp products from the 1970 Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

The DEA had until September 28, 2004, to appeal the decision, but let the deadline pass without comment.

This was the DEA’s second failed kick at the anti-hemp can. The saga actually began in October 2001, when flabbergasted Canadian hemp exporters learned that the DEA would no longer tolerate their products traversing the US border. One Canadian hemp producer, Kenex, threatened to sue the US government under the North American Free Trade Agreement. The DEA ban was eventually stayed by a 9th Circuit Court in March 2002.

The DEA tried again, declaring that hemp food products with any detectable levels of THC would be banned. (Canada allows hemp foods to have THC levels of no more than 10 parts per million.) The 9th Circuit Court ruled that the DEA was exceeding its authority.

According to Chris Conrad, founder of the Business Alliance for Commerce in Hemp and author of Hemp: Lifeline to the Future, the DEA’s final defeat in this case is a big win for Canadian hemp growers, especially since American competition is non-existent under laws that make hemp cultivation illegal in the US.

“It’s a green light for imported hemp food products and hemp seed products to flourish and prosper,” Conrad told Cannabis Culture. “The DEA has done its best on this one and lost.”

The HIA promises to challenge America’s federal laws against hemp cultivation, and to keep pushing until hemp and hemp products are completely legal in the US.