Organic Consumers Association

Subject: April 17th - Hemp: Wonder food or contraband? from MPLS STRIB -

Hemp: Wonder food or contraband?

Chuck Haga, Star Tribune Published April 17, 2003 HEMP17

So, this "hemp bread" in the bag with the many-stemmed leaf -- is it as filling as it looks, or does it give you the munchies? Is it OK to eat as long as you don't inhale? Lynn Gordon laughs -- not fall-down laughing, but something more mellow, resigned as she is by now to questions about stems, dealers and street value. "We all try not to joke about it, but we can't help it," she said. Gordon is president of French Meadow Bakery in Minneapolis, which four years ago introduced "Healthy Hemp Sprouted Bread," made with hempseed imported from Germany and Canada -- imported because hemp, a member of the cannabis family related to marijuana, is in some forms a controlled substance in the United States.

Hempseed and hemp oil, also used in the making of food products, contain trace amounts of THC -- the "psychoactive" element that makes cousin marijuana an illegal drug. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has been trying for more than a year to prohibit the use of hempseed and hemp oil in food products, and the agency recently published "final rules" addressing the legal status of products derived from the cannabis plant. The ban is to take effect Monday, but a hemp industry association has asked the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to stay the order.

The appeals court stayed an earlier form of the proposed rule last year. Without another stay, Gordon fears she'll have to stop making her popular hemp bread -- which accounts for about 20 percent of French Meadow's nationwide sales of frozen and refrigerated natural foods. It also accounts for most of Gordon's own breakfasts and lunches. "I have it every day with a poached egg, and every day I have a grilled cheese sandwich," she said. "I'd really hate to have to stop. I've become quite addicted to it." Hahahahahahahahaha. "No, really, hempseed is a wonder food, one of the most nutritious foods on the planet," she said. "This would be a great loss for health-conscious consumers of the United States." Controlled substance Under the Controlled Substances Act, any product that contains even a trace of THC -- tetrahydrocannabinols -- is itself a controlled substance, according to the DEA. In some cases, the agency grants exemptions for "legitimate industrial use" of a controlled substance, and the rules the DEA announced on March 21 allow for the use of hemp to make rope, paper, clothing, soaps and shampoos. "DEA is exempting these types of industrial cannabis products from control because they . . . do not cause THC to enter the human body," the agency said. "When it comes to cannabis products that are intended or used for human consumption [foods and beverages], however, today's rules make clear that if such a product contains THC, it remains prohibited." To register their opposition to the DEA's rule and "give the public a taste of what they'll be missing," hemp advocates will visit about 70 agency offices around the country Monday and pass out samples of foods containing hempseed or hemp oil.

At about half of those sites, the samples will be French Meadow's Healthy Hemp Sprouted Bread, fresh from the company's south Minneapolis bakery, Gordon said. She insists that her bread has nothing to do with any campaign to decriminalize marijuana -- any more than poppyseed muffins are meant to lead to use of opium. "I'm in the food business, not the drug business," she said. "I don't have a personal penchant for marijuana. Those days passed long ago. If marijuana is helpful for people with glaucoma, maybe it should be available to them. But that's not my battle." A 'rotation crop' When the DEA first declared war on hempseed in food, "we were told we couldn't make it anymore and had to remove it from our shelves," Gordon said. "All our retailers around the country removed it, but we kept making it and selling it at our cafe" on Lyndale Avenue S.

The seeds test virtually THC-free, she said. French Meadow also tests finished loaves, with the same result. "The bag is a little controversial," Gordon said, though the pictured hemp leaf "is pointier, not as rounded" as a marijuana leaf. And each plastic bag -- not to say baggie -- carries an endorsement from George Washington: "Make the most of the hemp seed," he is quoted as saying in 1794. "Sow it everywhere!" Thomas Jefferson raised hemp, too, Gordon said. "It's not just a fluffy marketing technique," she said. "Hemp doesn't require herbicides or pesticides, and it's a very good rotation crop for corn and soybeans." Baked with whole-wheat flour, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds and other organic ingredients, French Meadow's hemp bread is high in protein, fiber and good fatty acids. "It's absolutely obscene that we're looking to ban it," Gordon said.


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