September 30, 1999

DEA Drug Hawks Swoop Down on Birdseed

DETROIT, Michigan, September 30, 1999 (ENS) -
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has seized a tractor trailer of serilized Canadian hemp seed on its way to a large U.S. company that has been selling hemp birdseed blends legally for years.

Following the August 9 seizure, U.S. Customs and the DEA demanded that Kenex, Canada's largest producer and processor of industrial hemp products, recall previous shipments of other hemp products such as oil, granola bars, horse bedding and animal feed. Kenex is based in Paincourt, Ontario, 60 miles from Detroit.

U.S. Customs is threatening nearly $500,000 in fines against Kenex if the recalled products are not redelivered to Detroit Customs in the next few days. These fines are in addition to the fines and possible criminal charges that may be laid in relation to the bird seed load itself. A 30 day extension request to clarify the situation was denied by U.S. Customs.

The agencies have taken these actions even though all of the products are exempt under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, and many have been sold in the United States for 60 years. There has never a time when sterilized hemp seed or oil or meal was illegal.

The DEA, after repeated requests, refuses to provide Kenex with any legal basis for the confiscation.

Kenex's president, Jean Laprise says, "Kenex, along with many other U.S. companies are suffering irreparable damage due to the illegal actions taken by the DEA and U.S. Customs. It seems the DEA could be spending the U.S. taxpayer's drug war money in better ways than chasing after bird seed and horse bedding." 

Laprise says, "All the proper documentation has been supplied to Customs in the past in accordance with our custom broker's instructions. Kenex has always acted in good faith and has never violated any U.S. laws. Our legal counsel has advised us that the DEA and U.S. Customs are acting in clear violation of U.S. laws as well as NAFTA."

Industrial hemp has no drug qualities and is grown in 32 countries including Canada, France, Germany, and England. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), mentions hemp as a strategic commodity.

Currently, French and German hempseed products are still entering the United States under the same tariff code without problems.

Kenex is in the process of preparing the paperwork to file a complaint under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Hemp foods are typically made from sterilized seed like that seized from Kenex. It is impossible for the seed to ever contain any tetra hydro cannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component in marijuana, which is produced in the flowering tops of the female Cannabis Sativa L. plant. The THC content in the fiber, leaf or flower of the industrial hemp plant is less than one percent. By contrast, the THC content of the Cannabis Sativa bred for marijuana production is around 10 percent.

Kenex's western U.S. broker and importer of hempseed products is Nutiva, a Sebastopol, California based company. Nutiva has over 700 natural food stores, manufacturers and restaurants utilizing hempseed.

Nutiva's hempseed bar, made with sunflower, hemp, flax and pumpkin seeds and honey, has just surpassed 100,000 units sales, making it the top selling hemp food in the U.S. John Roulac, president and founder of Nutiva, states, "People love the nutty, chewy taste of our hempseed bars. Hempseed is rich in protein, vitamin E and the heart healthy Omega 3 are an added bonus."

The current seizures, recalls and summons are in effect shutting off the supply of hempseeds for this growing market. If the markets are shut down in the U.S., American farmers future markets for hemp products will be curtailed by their own federal government, Roulac says.

Roulac, a board member of the North American Industrial Hemp Council and who has also written three books on industrial hemp, finds it ironic that the federal government is serving him a summons for "Marijuana related products."

Industrial hemp is not marijuana, he emphasizes. "If you smoke it you get a headache. If you smoke more you get a bigger headache."

The DEA is required by law to report to Congress each year a list of drug producing nations and Canada is not on the list. "The DEA is either lying to Congress or admitting industrial hemp is not a drug crop," Roulac says.

One of Nutiva's customers is Coup Restaurant in New York City. Coup's executive chef Kevin Roth, said, "Our hempseed crusted tuna is our best-selling dish on the menu. To say we are serving a controlled substance is outlandish." The restaurant is now purchasing this ingredient from other hempseed vendors.

Kenex initiated its research program on industrial hemp in 1995 in cooperation with Ridgetown College of University of Guelph in Ontario. A research license was granted by Health Canada to proceed with the program. The scope of the project was expanded in 1996 making it the largest hemp research project in Canada.

1997 marked the beginning of the legalization of commercial hemp production in Canada with the passing of Bill C-8. This encouraged Kenex to expand their acreage of hemp as well as purchase land, buildings, and some equipment to start a processing facility. 1998 was the first year commercial production and processing of industrial hemp in Canada.

The states of Minnesota, North Dakota and Hawaii have all approved the cultivation of industrial hemp, and the legislators in Illinois, Montana, Virginia and California have approved resolutions endorsing the recommercialization and growing of industrial hemp.

Environment News Service (ENS) 1999. All Rights Reserved.
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From: HEMPTECH: Hemp News Service Digest