Background on the Hemp Food Controversy
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) originally published a rule regarding industrial hemp products in the Federal Register on October 9, 2001, which was effective immediately, and announced it in a press release. Without any compelling reason or the required public notice and comment period, the DEA issued an Interpretive Rule banning hemp seed and oil food products that contain any amount of trace residual THC. In response, the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) and several other plaintiffs filed an “Urgent Motion for Stay” of the DEA interpretive rule, and on March 7, 2002, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay of the interpretive rule. The stay remained in effect and hemp foods continued to be sold at thousands of locations across the country while the case was litigated.
Also on October 9, the DEA issued an Interim Rule exempting hemp body care and fiber products from DEA control and a Proposed Rule which would add language to the Controlled Substances Act making hemp food products illegal to sell or posess if they contained “any” THC.
After extensive meetings and discussions with most of the major hemp food companies, it became clear that according to the official Health Canada testing protocol these hemp food companies’ products generally did not have any detectable THC and should therefore remain perfectly legal for resale and consumption.
However, since the DEA had not specified a detection protocol and a corresponding de minimus limit of detection, companies had no way of knowing for sure if their products would be legal under the DEA’s new rules.
Hemp seeds and oil have absolutely no psychoactive effect, and are about as likely to be abused as poppy seed bagels for their trace opiate content or fruit juices for their trace alcohol content (present through natural fermentation). Furthermore, the hemp industry has established the science-based TestPledge program. TestPledge companies clean their seed and oil to assure consumers a wide margin of safety from falsely confirming positive in a workplace drug-test even when eating an unrealistic amount of hemp food daily. The DEA’s actions were especially puzzling, as they had not targeted poppy seed manufacturers for the trace opiates present in their products. In fact, the U.S. government raised drug-test thresholds for opiates in the 1990’s to accommodate the poppy seed industry.