The DEA's ruling, or clarification of existing law, took effect on Oct. 6, and companies dealing in suddenly illegal products have 120 days to either dispose of them or export them.
"However, during this grace period, no person may manufacture or distribute any such product for human consumption within the United States," according to the DEA's order.
Products banned if they contain THC include beer, cheese, snack bars, salad oil, veggie burgers, coffee and products made with flour. Hemp products not deemed illegal by the DEA include clothing, cosmetics, lotions, paper, rope, shampoo and soap.
House runs Lancaster Trading, a broker and distributor of hemp products, in addition to Lancaster Hemp Co., which aims to educate the public on hemp, and Hempzel Pretzels.
"We're trying to show the public, the media, even the people in the DEA the ridiculousness of what they're trying to do," House said.
The THC level in hemp, which supporters call a close cousin to marijuana, registers between zero and 10 parts per million, much lower than the amount found in marijuana, House said.
The DEA, however, sees no distinction between hemp and marijuana.
"Many Americans do not know that hemp and marijuana are both parts of the same plant and that hemp cannot be produced without producing marijuana," DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson stated in the agency's Oct. 6 ruling.
The DEA says hemp is not a term found in federal law, and that although hemp consists of the stalk portion of a marijuana plant, or sterilized seeds, it is illegal if used in a product to be ingested.
Marijuana is considered to be the upper portions of the plant, including buds and leaves.
"It is an illegal substance that may not be manufactured, sold or consumed in the United States," the DEA order states. "Such products include "hemp' foods and beverages that contain THC."
A reporter's inquiries Monday to the DEA office in Philadelphia were referred to agency headquarters in Washington, D.C., where a spokeswoman said the DEA's position was made clear on its Web site.
Sales of hemp products in the United States total more than $100 million a year, House said, but the plant cannot be grown here. It is legal to grow hemp in Canada and 30 other countries, however.
House said hemp pretzels contain so little THC that consumers can eat them and then be drug tested without worry.
"It wouldn't come up on a drug test, because it's a very, very insignificant amount," he said, adding that the hemp industry has enormous potential. "The hemp industry is where the soy industry was 30 years ago. It can be a billion-dollar crop."
House has been active in efforts to encourage local farmers to persuade lawmakers of the value of hemp. It was once a staple in Lancaster County agriculture, thus the name "Hempfield" for the area between Lancaster and the Susquehanna River.
It is billed as the world's strongest natural fiber and was once widely used to make rope and canvas, along with hundreds of other products.
House said his company's crunchy pretzels use the "meat of the seed" and flour, while soft pretzels contain those items, plus hemp oil. He also brokers lip balms and soaps, in addition to snack bars and pretzels, which are sold at health food stores.
"What's going to kill me is getting investment capital," he said of the DEA's order. "We're building the infrastructure and that's where it's hurting. I've been doing this for years on a shoestring budget."
House said the DEA is "perpetuating ignorance. They're perpetuating misinformation."
Several states have attempted to distinguish between hemp and marijuana, creating even more confusion in recent years. Like others, House wonders what steps the DEA will take to enforce its clarification, as he continues to sell his hemp products.
"This is the future," he said of hemp in general. "There's a fiber shortage, and hemp is an excellent source of fiber. We just really need to make the consumer aware."
Note: Hemp: Rules clarification lowers the boom.
Source: Intelligencer Journal (PA)
Author: David Griffith, Intelligencer Journal Staff
Published: Tuesday, December 4, 2001
Copyright: 2001 Lancaster Newspapers, Inc.
Related Articles & Web Sites: