Letter To Sen. Campbell

January 11, 2000

Hon. Ben Nighthorse Campbell

380 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20510

Phone: (202) 224-5852

Fax: (202) 224-1933

(Similar letters sent to Colorado Senator Wayne Allard and Rep. Mark Udall)

Dear Senator Campbell,

I am the co-owner of the Boulder Hemp Company. Since 1998, our company has been manufacturing tortilla chips in the U.S. made with sterile hemp grain imported from Canada. I have contacted you several times in the past few months about our concern that the DEA and U.S. Customs are acting illegally by usurping Congressional authority and outlawing sterilized hemp grain from being imported into the U.S. The illegal actions of these federal agencies are a real and immediate threat to the livelihood of our business.

On October 3 and 18, I faxed you a letter and background information regarding this issue. On October 25, I visited your office personally in Washington, D.C. to discuss the issue. I left a sample of our Heavenly Hemp tortilla chips with your staff. 

I hope you had a chance to enjoy the chips, but I have not yet received a satisfactory answer from you. I am extremely disappointed in the service that I have gotten from your office. If you think industrial hemp is some kind of crackpot issue, I should remind you that industrial hemp has the support of many Coloradans. Organizations as diverse as the Colorado Farm Bureau and the Colorado Environmental Coalition have endorsed industrial hemp production. In addition, Colorado Agriculture Commissioner Don Ament voted in support of industrial hemp when he served in the Senate. 

The situation has now become even more threatening than before. Apparently, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov  has now intervened into the matter, forcing Customs to prohibit all shipments of hemp products into the U.S. if they contain any trace of THC. The DEA, U.S. Customs, and the ONDCP are now all acting illegally with the malicious intention of destroying hemp industry in the U.S. and Canada. 

To review the issue, on August 9, 1999, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency directed U.S. Customs to seize 39,000 pounds of sterilized Canadian hemp grain that was being exported to the U.S. by Kenex, Canada's largest hemp producer.

Sterilized hemp seeds, which are incapable of germination, along with all other hemp products, have always been and are now legal in the U.S. Hemp products are exempted from the federal definition of "marihuana" in the Controlled Substances Act, which defines only the leaves and viable seeds of cannabis as illegal. U.S.C. 21-13-802 (16). http://www.levellers.org/dea/mjdefn.html 

In addition, an affidavit given by a DEA Senior Investigator in a 1991 criminal case involving sterile hemp seeds states, "The DEA does not  consider sterile marijuana seed sold as birdfeed to be a controlled substance, whether or not it contains residue or particulate matter which tests positive for the presence of THC." http://www.levellers.org/dea/affidavit.html 

Finally, both NAFTA and the U.N. Single Convention Treaty on Narcotics allow hemp as a legitimate agricultural commodity. All the G8 countries, except the U.S., produce and export industrial hemp. 

The December 9 seizure was an illegal action by these federal agencies. In my letters to you of October 3 and 18, and in my personal visit on October 25, 1999, I asked you two primary questions:

1) Provide us with written assurance that the DEA and/or U.S. Customs has not usurped the authority of Congress by re-writing the Controlled Substances Act to make sterile hemp seeds and/or other hemp products illegal.

2) Provide us with written assurance that we can import hemp into the U.S. without fear of illegal seizures or criminal charges. 

In follow-up phone calls and letters, I was assured that you would get a response for me to these two questions. Now the situation has gotten worse instead of better. 

On Nov. 15, 1999, Kenex issued a press release stating that U.S. Customs had agreed to return the sterile hemp grain to Kenex. It is unclear whether or not Kenex ever received their property. http://www.kenex.com/whatsnew.shtml 

You sent me a letter dated December 2, 1999 from the DEA that stated "DEA is reviewing the interpretation of applicable laws and DEA policy regarding the circumstances of the seizure. Further, DEA has advised U.S. Customs that DEA has no objection to the release of the seized shipment."

This response from the DEA in no way answered either of my twoquestions, stated quite clearly above. On Dec. 7, 1999, I  found out on the Internet that U.S. Customs issued new guidelines that would allow hemp seed to be imported into the U.S. These new guidelines stated: "1) Hemp Seed: All shipments of hemp seed must be certified as sterilized or otherwise rendered incapable of germination. 2) Any Hemp Product: Any hemp product, or part thereof, which contains less than 0.3 percent THC may be imported legally into the United States. Any products which are found to have a THC content greater than 0.3 percent will be subject to seizure." http://www.levellers.org/dea/memo.customs.dec7.html 

It was unclear to our company whether U.S. Customs has the authority to make these regulations. The federal definition of marihuana U.S.C. 21-13-802 (16) does not mention THC, but only uses viability to determine legality. Whether legal or not, we were happy with this policy since it would not have affected our company's ability to import sterile hemp grain from Canada. The Canadian hemp grain is certified to meet the above requirements. However, the questionable legality of the new Customs policy turned out to be a moot question.

On Dec. 30, 1999, the White House Office of the National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) asked Customs to suspend the guidelines of December 7th, 1999. According to a memo from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (which I again found on the Internet), on January 5, 2000, U.S. Customs enacted a new policy that "Any hemp product, or part thereof, which contains ANY amount of THC is subject to seizure." The Agri-food Canada memo also says that the Dec. 7 policy was suspended so that "The ONDCP, together with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)," could "review the issue to determine whether the policy to allow for traces of THC in hemp products is consistent with their National Drug Control Strategy." http://www.levellers.org/dea/memo.agrifoodcanada.jan7.html 

Industrial hemp may not be consistent with the Drug Czar's fantasy, but it is now and always has been legal. Or am I misunderstanding something? Are our public schools really that bad? Can the DEA, U.S. Customs, and the ONDCP re-write federal law every two months? I thought *you* were the legislator.

I still have my primary two questions listed above, but the change in the situation has only created more. Is the usurpation of Congressional authority by the DEA, U.S. Customs, and the ONDCP acceptable? Is this legal? Who's responsible for overseeing federal agencies? Is it you? If not you, who is? Is it your job to help citizens like me when they have a problem with a federal agency? Do I have to pay you cash? Will I get a receipt? Will I be going to jail for manufacturing the same Heavenly Hemp chips that I left in your office? If the chips were illegal, why did you accept them? Should I be contacting Attorney General Janet Reno to tell her that you have an illegal substance in your office? Is it OK if she doesn't knock before she comes in?


If I do not get immediate, written answers to my two primary questions listed above, I will be forced to try you in the court of public opinion. My company's PR department is more than ready to make public your poor performance in responding to citizen concerns. We'd much rather sing praise on how quickly you reacted to this situation. 

Please, make me proud!

Kathleen Chippi
Co-owner, Boulder Hemp Company
P.O. Box 1794, Nederland CO 80466
Phone: (303) 938-0195
Fax: (303) 443-1869