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Volume 3, Issue 18, Fall 2001, ISSN 1498-8135

Regulatory Update

The Saskatchewan Hemp Association represents growers, processors and marketers across western Canada. Come to our upcoming AGM in Saskatoon, SK, Jan 11th, 2002-- part of Crop Production Week-- see Full Speaker Slate at
Contact: Duane Phillippi, Tel: 306-757-4367, saskhemp@sk.sympatico.ca NEW web page: www.saskhemp.com


New Rules? Canada

canadaflag.gifThis summer, Health Canada called for proposals to review and modify the existing framework for the Industrial Hemp regulations. The initial commentary period closed in September, but additional opportunity for comments will open in 2002.

The Canadian hemp industry's main goals at this point are very practical ones. The sense from coast-to-coast is that the hemp regulations are working, but could be made to work better. So companies are looking to streamline the licensing and regulatory process on hemp, which should reduce some of the associated costs, without sacrificing the quality control that arises from having regulations.

Many good ideas have been put forward. For example, the Saskatchewan Hemp Association, representing about 2 dozen companies and 50 farmers in western Canada, made recommendations that included:

1) Development of a Mission Statement to help provide direction for the industry and government. The precedent for this is found in proposed Natural Health Products regulations.

2) Amending mandatory criminal record checks from a 1 year to a 5 year period, with safeguards in place.

3) Amending the definition of fibre to include leaves and flowers. This change will help increase the value of fibre for such innovations as silage, processing for essential oil and biomass and will help find new markets for the fibre byproduct of oilseed production.

4) Development of a "clean list" of cultivars that would waive mandatory sampling and testing for hemp cultivars consistently below the 0.3% infield THC threshold. Several years of date collection should be analysed to establish "cultivar compliance". This amendment could reduce producer costs significantly.

5) Sprouting of hempseeds for food use: currently prohibited, sprouting should be allowed in a licensed food processing facility. Sprouted hempseed will not leave the facility in a viable form and only be used for food processing purposes.

The SHA has also requested that a 5 year timeline be established for the transference of the regulatory oversight of industrial hemp to the Ministry of Agri-Food and Agriculture Canada. Health Canada would maintain control over the sampling and testing of industrial hemp as necessary. Such a change would mean the devolution of certain regulations if the transfer is to have any meaningful impact.

Jim Geiwitz of BC proposed that the regulations move towards more a more "farmer-friendly" policies, if such can be achieved without the loss of control. He points out the inexpensive technologies now exist for THC testing in the field; if proved to be accurate at the level of an analytical laboratory, these testing devices should be allowed as a substitute. Other ideas include opening the regulations to acceptable non-OECD varieties of hempseed, such as cultivars sourced from China. The minimum acreage --currently 10 acres -- for a commercial hemp field needs to be reevaluated to reflect the small size of farms in some parts of Canada (e.g.: Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island, PEI & the Atlantic, some parts of Ontario. Not everyone grows by the section.)

Health Canada for its part, is expected to advance some sort of cost-recovery scheme. Allegedly, Health Canada will also be making recommendations around lowering the allowable trace THC content in hemp foods and cosmetics, currently set at 10 parts per million. On the industry side arguments have been made for both lowering and raising allowable limits over the past two years. Anyhow, more will be known in the next few months.

New! and Improved!: Food Label Advisory

logohlth.gifOutside of the Hemp Office, Health Canada is also making changes to food labeling laws, all of which will have some positive impact on the marketing of hemp. The changes, published in the Canada Gazette in June, include improved nutrition information for the labelling of prepackaged foods, and regulations on nutrient content claims ( such as "high fibre" or "fat free") will be allowed as will specific health claims.


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New Rules! USA

flagusa.gifAfter a year or so of warning, the DEA has finally issued its new rules on hemp in October. Surprisingly, these were not as draconian as feared. While the US is still too paranoid about Cannabis to allow domestic cultivation of industrial hemp, rule makers are seemingly on the path to admitting that hemp is a legitimate, if small, sector (but they ain't there yet.)

What the new regs do is establish that all forms of THC are now Schedule I substances, even the trace amounts found in almost all hemp products.

Now the good news about the DEA regs -- the first significant US regulations on hemp since the infamous Marihuana Tax Act -- is that they specifically exempt all hemp fibre products, including clothing, paper, stable chips, and industrial textiles. They also exempt hemp for birdseed and animal feed, provided that the hempseed is sterilized and is mixed with something else. The regs also seem to exempt all hemp content cosmetics.

This is progress. A few years ago, they were trying to call hemp hurds marijuana.

However, the regs as set out could very well cripple the dynamic hemp foods sector.

dea.jpgOK, here's the reasoning: the DEA is not prohibiting hemp foods because they are hemp foods, they are prohibiting hemp foods that cause THC to enter the human body. The DEA has exempted hemp soaps, cosmetics, shampoos etc. for while they recognize that these kind of products might contain THC, they are figuring that the ability of the skin to absorb THC is insignificant. THC, not hemp, is the issue.

So why the paranoia about trace amounts of THC? First off, the requirement for urine testing for THC in many government jobs as well as jobs in the private sector. Regulators are concerned that hemp food consumption will cause a false positive.

However, this worry was been countered by 2000's Leson Study published this month in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology (see http://www.jatox.com), which determined that hemp foods currently on the market do not cause false positives given a correctly applied piss test and procedure.

But the DEA seems to be displaying selective attention. Which brings us to our second reason for these hard time rules: the DEA is about Drug Administration as well as Enforcement. I mean, you can legally buy THC in the US now, but only as a brand name drug --Marinol ® -- which has been recently rescheduled to Schedule II (FYI: there are 5 schedules).. Expensive-to-make, pure THC in sesame oil capsules Marinol ® effectively has a DEA granted and enforced monopoly on THC, so any other sources, whether medical marijuana or a Canadian -made hemp granola bar, must be suppressed.

Though they call all forms of THC a Schedule I drug, the hemp regulations don't mention Marinol ®. I wonder if a "false positive " is possible from Marinol ® use?

Now, many hemp foods are sold in the US as free of THC, so the new regs won't affect them. Maybe. If the hemp foods are found to contain THC, there will be serious consequences including the possibility of criminal sentences (or worse) for the seller, consumer, and manufacturer.

The DEA has not included a test protocol for THC in their new regs, which begs the question, how do they know whether a given product contains THC or not? Will a TestPledge (see http://www.testpledge.com) compliant company be allowed to keep selling? How will imports from other countries be affected? Will they continue to use existing US Customs protocols, or do they intend to regulate by rule?

There are thresholds for traces of cow milk in soy milk products. There is considerable ongoing discussion about the level of GM food content in GM-free foods. Opiate traces in bagels (poppyseeds) don't draw a wink. Why should hemp be any different?

Without some form of published protocol, enforcement of these regs will be arbitrary, and creates a very poor business climate. But with clear testing protocols and a legal, quantitative definition of "zero", these rules are workable. More work is needed.

Despite the mean-spiritedness of the regulations, the DEA has allowed hemp food companies a 120 day grace period to "dispose" of their inventory.

The DEA has also indicated that they are receiving public comments up until December 10th 2001. On the assumption that they are being sincere, you should take them up on their offer. Write 'em. To find some food letter templates or to read up some more and take cogent action on the issue, check out www.votehemp.com and www.hempfood.com.

VoteHemp has also launched a legal challenge with a coalition of affected companies; see their site for up-to-date info. If you have the time and really want to read it the "Petitioners Urgent Motion for Stay Pending Review" and the replies are posted at the very end of the VoteHemp Action Page: http://www.votehemp.com/action.html. When the Ninth Curcuit Court issues their opinion on the Stay Pending Review it should be posted on the Court's web site at: www.ca9.uscourts.gov. Click on "OPINIONS" in the left hand menu bar.

Keep track of this story on our frequently updated Hemp News Page.
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Vote Hemp is currently working to stop new DEA regulations on hemp foods. A lawsuit has been filed in Federal Court but we need your help to continue the fight. Please donate whatever you can on our web site today! Go to: www.votehemp.com.



"DEA is unequivocally opposed to the legalization of illicit drugs (including marijuana, hemp and hemp seed oil": USDOJ, http://www.usdoj.gov/dea/demand/druglegal/02dl.htm

"The only way the DEA is going to "deal" with us is if they have no other choice: i.e. we have to make them, though our legal, political, marketplace and grassroots strategies." David Bronner, as told to NAIHC Board November 3rd, St. Louis, MO, 2001"

" The administrative scheduling process relies on scientifically sound, legally-defensible and timely data relevant to each substance considered for placement into one of the five schedules." Laura M. Nagel, DEA as told to the House Committee on Government Reform: Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources, Washington DC, March 27, 2001.

"It is the position of the Hemp Food Association (HFA) that this Interim Rule is merely a clarification of the basis under which the DEA, US Customs, and all responsible hempseed importers have been operating under for quite some time, namely, that hempseed products may not contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)." Hemp Foods Association http://www.hempfood.com

"Of course, hemp-derived food contains naturally occurring trace amounts of THC, but not nearly enough to have psychoactive effects, any more than the trace amounts of opiates in poppy seeds or the traces of alcohol in fruit juices (from natural fermentation) will get you high. But the US government is singling out hemp because of an unreasonably paranoid anti-drug attitude in Washington. " Body Shop Founder Anita Roddick from her web site: http://www.anitaroddick.com/weblog/weblogdetail.jsp?title=null&id=70 "

"THC is a controlled substance; it is a drug," says DEA spokesman Will Glaspy, "so foods containing controlled substances would be illegal .... Would you feel comfortable with kids eating candy bars with trace amounts of heroin?" Glaspy asks. "I don't think anybody would." From Marty Jones' story Hemp Burns Out, published in Colorado's Westworld (see http://www.westword.com/issues/2001-11-22/news2.html/1/index.html.


To go back to the Table of Contents, click here.

To go to Part 1, Canada, click here.

To go to Part 2, Fibre Front, click here.

To go to Part 4, Primordial & Timeless Forms, click here.