There You Go Again...

Drug Czar Attacks Hemp Industry

ONDCP Orders US Customs to Suspend Industrial Hemp Importation Guidelines

In an apparent backlash to two recent victories by the Industrial Hemp industry, the Office of the National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) pressured US Customs to suspend guidelines issued on December 7th, 1999 which provided for the continued importation of sterilized seed with up to .3% THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) without DEA license.

A memorandum issued on January 5, states "the ONDCP, together with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), will 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." The memorandum goes on to say that in the meantime, Customs field personnel are "instructed to use constructive seizure procedures" for "any hemp product, or part thereof, which contains ANY amount of THC."

At least 29 nations now regulate the production of industrial hemp. Most have set a maximum level of 0.3% THC in agricultural crops. After two years of research and rule making, Canada set tough national standards for levels of THC in hemp consumer products of .001% or 10 parts per million.

The first event to precipitate the ONDCP moratorium occurred on November 4th, 1999 when the DEA was pressured to resolve an August 9th US Customs seizure of a load of hemp grain originating from Kenex farms in Southern Ontario. DEA had demanded that Kenex recall 17 loads of previously shipped hemp seed under the threat of penalty and effected an unofficial embargo of Canadian hemp products. Since THC is considered a Controlled Substance, the agency took a hard line on hemp seed products containing as low as 14 parts per million THC. The deal, brokered by the Canadian Embassy in Washington DC, served as a major victory for the hemp industry which then began to recover from the losses caused by the four month interruption of supply.

The second event that precipitated the ONDCP moratorium was the planting of industrial hemp on a research facility in Hawaii on December 14, 1999, under permits from the state of Hawaii and the DEA. This was the first hemp crop to be legally planted in the United States since 1957 and made national headlines.

This new action by the ONDCP reverses these victories and is a direct blow to the Canadian hemp industry, whose major market is the United States. Because this action was taken without consultation with the government of Canada, it violates the NAFTA treaty. "What we have is McCaffrey over-ruling US Customs, the DEA and the Justice Department," observes Jean Laprise of Kenex. "The laws don't matter to him at this point and I would be surprised if this gets resolved outside the courts."

During the past three years, 22 states have approved some form of legislation or resolution supporting industrial hemp, including California, Virginia, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Maryland, Iowa, Vermont, Tennessee and Montana, Illinois, Minnesota, and North Dakota to name a few. US hemp industry sales are estimated at $250 million in 1999 and are expected to reach $400 million by 2002.

Don Wirtshafter, president of the Ohio Hempery, Inc. is particularly upset with the ONDCP action. "The hemp industry suffered a huge loss of momentum when Customs illegally cut off our supplies for four months" he said. "We finally were getting back on our feet when the drug czar did this about-face on us. New regulations are supposed to come after rule making procedures are followed and the public is given an opportunity to be heard, not on some bureaucrat's whim." 

Background on the current situation may be read at: , a site maintained by the Hemp Industries Association.

Photos of Industrial Hemp may be accessed at: 


Mari Kane, Hemp Industries Association Press Director

Tel: 707- 887-7508,