Drop that pretzel. The Drug Enforcement Administration has given manufacturers of hemp foods until March 18 to "dispose" of their products--but not by eating them. Even during this "grace period," the DEA warns, "no person may use any THC-containing 'hemp' product for human consumption." The original deadline for the ban, announced last October, was February 6. The DEA extended it to give the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit time to consider a challenge by the Hemp Industries Association.
The DEA claims it is merely clarifying existing law. It says products containing trace amounts of THC have been illegal for three decades; it's just that no one (including the Justice Department) realized it until last fall. The industry argues that the DEA is trying to evade the procedures required for adding substances to Schedule I, the most restrictive category of the Controlled Substances Act. Among other things, the DEA would have to show that products such as Nutiva Hemp Chips and Ruth's Balsamic Hemp salad dressing have a "high potential for abuse."
Meanwhile, hemp food companies are seeking to allay concerns that their products can trigger positive results on drug tests. Although early reports indicated this was possible, subsequent research has shown that currently available products do not contain enough THC to interfere with properly conducted urinalysis. Companies participating in the TestPledge program promise to keep it that way.
Even if the test concerns were valid, the DEA's attempt to remove hemp seed and oil from the food supply would be hard to fathom. As hempsters are fond of noting, poppy seeds contain traces of opiates, but the DEA has never tried to seize bagels or pastries as contraband.