2001: DEA Legalizes Hemp Products, HIA Sues to Stop It

Hemp’s False Flag Event

It was a perfect storm of fckery: a half-dozen lawyers smelling hundreds of thousands in billable hours, a recently-taken Vote Hemp wanting to foment upset via the victim narrative for donations, Bronner wanting to make a big splash, and stoners with no skin in the game suing DEA over hemp was a Hippie’s wet dream. With envious competitors lying to them, no dirty trick was too big.

In 2001, as part of its response to 9/11 and the government’s new priorities, DEA liberalized its position on industrial hemp imports and products. Namely, it announced that any hemp import may contain any amount of THC, as long as it was not for human consumption. That effectively legalized 96% of hemp imports, regardless of THC content. Fiber, clothes, hurd, bast, animal bedding, hempseed oil for industrial use, soap, biofuels, ethanol; all were then legal federally, no max THC.

This was significant, because DEA is a hard-line agency and never before gave permission to import a Schedule I Controlled Substance (THC) without a special license.

US Customs, which enforces DEA’s ban on unpermitted Controlled Substance importation, has an 11-page detection protocol for natural THC (USCL Method F0-03), and a 16-page detection protocol for synthetic THC (USCL Method 006-013V). The former provides for a 1 ppm detection standard for THC, and the latter 2 ppm on hemp imports for human consumption. This is a relatively easy standard to meet, since most or all US hemp importers already comply.

From DEA’s Director on down to its public spokesperson, all statements had been the same: industrial hemp was not important to them in the post-9/11 era. The 2001 Interpretive Rule was DEA trying to lighten its workload and toss us a bone after 9/11. For that, they got sued by the fiber and retail group Hemp Industries Association (HIA), and were hard-asses to hemp ever since.

Personally, I expected a clarification like the Interpretive Rule to be issued, for years. It was very reasonable, could have been much worse, and represented the first loosening of DEA’s tight grip on any Cannabis. However, instead of applauding DEA’s new liberalized position on hemp, legalization activists not needing to comply sued DEA to get the new Rule rescinded! Vote Hemp and HIA were advised against the lawsuit by leading Cannabis legal and technical experts, as well as a PR firm.

DEA legalized 96% of the hemp industry with the Rule. Max THC did not matter if not for human consumption. Today, max THC in all hemp products is 0.3%, a diminution of what DEA was offering.

What about hemp foods, you ask? I was doing by far most of the import hemp food business back then, and I welcomed the clarification of every investor’s first question “is it legal to DEA?” If the company with the greatest burden of compliance didn’t have a problem it, why should the exempted fiber, retail and soap people have a problem?

My belief then, as it is today, is that I will work around whatever laws you give me to work around, I’ll find a way (and usually do). As for 1 ppm max THC in hemp foods, that was easy. Hempseed Oil was the only product at-risk, and cleaning it would have been cheap and easy, and HIA knew that.

Who in their right mind sues DEA for legalizing 95% of the hemp industry? One petitioner for the stay (North Farms Co-op) actually had a hemp food ban right up until they joined the suit. By 2001, I was a 14-year vendor to them and could not get my hemp foods in that natural food distributor even after 8 years. They carried literally every single other product I sold at the time, and had for years. We and our brokers had a decent relationship with them, no problems. We just chalked it up to Midwest stigma, and then boom just like that they were so aggrieved by DEA’s Rule that they felt the need to sue over it! 

Few hemp food companies joined the suit, not Nutiva, Hempola, Living Harvest, Manitoba Harvest, Cool Hemp, Hemp Hearts, One Brown Mouse, Kitsilano Hemp, Ohio Hempery, Jamaica Jay’s, Mama Indica’s, Humboldt Hemp Foods, HempNut Inc., French Meadow Bakery, or Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance, and none of the Europeans or Asians. Petitioners Dr Bronner’s, Atlas, and Organic Consumers Assn had no burden of compliance, they were not importing hemp for human consumption. Four were Canadian companies, Tierra Madre (Woody Harrelsen) was not even selling hemp then or now, and U.S. company Hempzels bought seed after it already cleared Customs thus had no compliance burden.

No U.S. companies with the burden of compliance were petitioners (soap doesn’t count, “not for human consumption”). The Canadians shipped to their U.S. customers, after clearing Customs. They had the burden of compliance, but none of the American petitioners did. 

In the trial, both sides used my words to make their point, sometimes from the same page and opposing points. HIA was so desperate to win it lied about me, my Hemp Food Association, and HempNut Inc. Even Justice Kozinski called the case bogus and “gratuitous”, in his dissent.

In May 2002 HIA kicked me out as a member over my “zero THC” policy, but only after using my membership to look good in the suit. Once done using the credibility I brought to the case, they tossed me to the curb. Today, many of those same petitioners state “no THC” in their products, with no qualification. It was purely a scam, a sham, a shame.

Then in August 2002 they issued a 5-page letter obviously written by a lawyer attacking me and my work, trying to “prove” zero THC was a “fraud.” That started the HIA policy of retaliation by talking trash about me to any who asked, and few who didn’t even. BTW in case you talked to them, I haven’t crashed a motorcycle since the ’70s, and I always wear a helmet. I have no head injury.

Why would HIA want to stop a hemp food pioneer progressing the Movement fast? FDA didn’t think what I was doing was a problem. Neither did DEA, U.S Customs, FBI, FTC, state police, local police, any of the 50 state Attorneys General, or any plaintiff’s or tort attorney. Was it for competitive reasons only, using the organization to slow me down so the others could catch up? It appears so.

This is the same hemp association costing the industry at least $6 million in sales for just those years, and the momentum which never recovered. It took 12 years for Canadian hemp production to recover to 1999 levels. Year 2000 is when “the Suits” started to co-opt the hemp movement from the “long-hairs,” including a former CIA Director and anti-THC zealots. When you sue to be allowed THC in hemp foods, don’t be surprised if everyone thinks there’s THC in hemp foods.

Extrapolate the trend line for sales at the beginning of hemp in Canada: had those with no skin in the game left us alone it would be far larger today. That organic momentum is the magic that propels nascent industries, a gift from God. Instead, today hemp is the rarest commercial seed available and you pay twice what you should for it.

Like today, HIA pretends to be the voice of All Things Hemp. Don’t be fooled.

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