Organic Consumers Association


Court Invalidates DEA Interpretive Rule on Hemp Foods

DEA Rule "Legislative" and "Inconsistent with THC Regulation"


SAN FRANCISCO, CA - U.S. COURT of APPEALS for the NINTH CIRCUIT - The Hemp Industries Association (HIA), member food and body care companies, and their customers applauded a decision issued today by the US Court of Appeals in San Francisco, invalidating the Drug Enforcement Administration's October 2001 "Interpretive Rule" that would have construed the Controlled Substances Act to ban edible hemp seed, oil and oil and seed products.

Writing for the majority opinion, Judge Betty Fletcher said, "Because the DEA rule is inconsistent with the THC regulation at the time of promulgation, it is a procedurally invalid legislative rule, not an interpretive rule. The petition requesting that we declare the rule to be invalid and unenforceable is granted." The opinion is available at "This is great news, but because the court narrowly declared the DEA 'Interpretive Rule' invalid on procedural grounds, hemp food remains in legal limbo until the court decides on the industry's challenge to the DEA's 'Final Rule' which is virtually identical to the 'Interpretive Rule,'" said Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp, a non-profit organization dedicated to the acceptance of and free market for Industrial Hemp. "However, today's court ruling not only ensures hemp foods will continue to be legally available to consumers in the meantime, but also strikes a major blow to the ultimate validity of DEA's Final Rule," added Steenstra.

On March 28, 2003 the HIA, several hemp food and cosmetic manufacturers and the Organic Consumers Association filed a brief in the Ninth Circuit asking for a review of the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) "Final Rule" regarding hemp foods. If this new "Final Rule" were to take effect, it would ban hemp seed and oil and consequently destroy the multimillion-dollar hemp food industry. Due to a Court ordered Stay, hemp foods remain perfectly legal to import, sell and consume while the Court hears arguments from the HIA and DEA and renders a decision.

The HIA brief charges that the DEA's "Final Rule" should be invalidated because the agency is exercising arbitrary and capricious authority by attempting to outlaw hemp seed and oil without holding formal hearings on the issue or finding any potential for abuse. Because trace infinitesimal THC in hemp seed is non-psychoactive and insignificant, Congress exempted non-viable hemp seed and oil from control under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), just as Congress exempted poppy seeds from the CSA, although they contain trace opiates otherwise subject to control.

The brief also charges that the DEA acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner in exempting hemp seed mixed with animal feed, although Congress made no such distinction in the CSA. Additionally, the brief elucidates other major failures by the DEA-namely, the lack of hearings on this issue and the failure to comply with the Regulatory Flexibility Act, which requires assessing effects of the proposed change on small businesses.

The brief and other court documents are available at Final Legal Schedule in Hemp Food Fight July 24, 2003: Deadline for DEA's response to HIA brief. August 8, 2003: Deadline for HIA's reply to DEA's response. September 17, 2003: Oral Arguments begin in San Francisco, CA. North American hemp food companies voluntarily observe reasonable THC limits similar to those adopted by European nations as well as Canada and Australia.

These limits protect consumers with a wide margin of safety from any psychoactive effects or workplace drug-testing interference (see hemp industry standards regarding trace THC at The DEA has hypocritically not targeted food manufacturers for using poppy seeds (in bagels and muffins, for example) even though they contain far higher levels of trace opiates. The recently-revived global hemp market is a thriving commercial success.

Unfortunately, because the DEA's Drug War paranoia has confused non-psychoactive industrial hemp varieties of cannabis with psychoactive "marihuana" varieties, the U.S. is the only major industrialized nation to prohibit the growing of industrial hemp. Vote Hemp is a 501(c)4 non-profit group dedicated to the acceptance of and free market for Industrial Hemp. To make a donation to help us continue our work, please visit:

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