|(Syndicated Article for 400 Papers)
October 4, 1999
ANDERSON & COHN
DEA's Assault on Birdseed
By Jack Anderson & Douglas Cohn
WASHINGTON -- Zealotry is not an attribute Americans value in their government, whether it comes in the form of an overbearing policeman, an all-too-happy tax collector, or -- an arbitrary drug enforcement agent. Zealotry is worse, still, when it infects not just the agent, but the agency -- in this case, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) -- as occurred on August 9:
A tractor-trailer full of seed destined for a birdseed factory was stopped and seized in Detroit, Michigan, by U.S. Customs officials on orders from the DEA. The cargo was listed as sterilized hemp seed from Kenex, a farming company based in Ontario, Canada, where it is licensed to breed, grow, process and manufacture hemp and hemp products.
You may wonder if this "dangerous" birdseed was laced with acid or camouflaging heroin. It was not.
The problem arose when the DEA literally chose to take the law into its own hands by redefining the law as it relates to marijuana, despite the fact that Congress, when drafting the Controlled Substance Act of 1937, excluded from its definition of marijuana, "the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination."
Such seeds, it was acknowledged, may -- like the oil and the nut --
contain naturally occurring traces of Tetra hydro cannabinol (THC), the
active ingredient in marijuana. By Kenex's own paperwork, the hemp seed
contained .00148 percent THC -- the equivalent, according to Kenex president, Jean Laprise, of an olive pit in a railroad car.
Kenex continues to insist that hemp is legal and they have been shipping it across the border for over a year without incident. "Do you think if they were trying to smuggle a product, they would have admitted to having drugs in the load?" asks John Roulac, a California businessman who was to receive part of the hemp seed shipment for chewy granola bars that his company produces.
Interestingly, of the 32 countries that grow and import hemp, none of them are mentioned in the DEA's congressional report on drug-producing nations.
© Anderson & Cohn