Hemp Holdup


Because of the government's reefer madness, the American people may soon be denied the pleasures of certain citrusy sodas, soothing lip balms, and tasty nut butters. As many eager activists at campus literature tables will remind you, the cannabis sativa plant is useful for a lot more than getting high. You can make clothing and rope from its body, and tasty, high-protein food from its seeds and oil.

While growing the plant—known as "hemp" to distinguish it from recreational marijuana—is illegal in the United States, it is legal to import and sell hemp byproducts. (The curious can find a fine sampling of hemp food, beauty, and other products at www.hemp-products. org.) You can't get marijuana's best-known effect from ingesting any of these, though they often contain tiny trace levels of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in pot.

Late last year, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced its intention to publish new rules extending Schedule I status—i.e., complete legal prohibition—to virtually all products that contain any amount of THC, "even if such substance is made from 'hemp.'" While exempting products "such as paper, rope, and clothing," the rule would ban all "'hemp' products that result in THC entering the human body." So say goodbye to body care products, soft drinks, and hemp-nut butters.

A DEA spokesman stresses that the new rule has not yet been published, and that "with the new administration, everything is up in the air."