In one of the dopiest rulings ever issued by the United States federalgovernment, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has announced a banon hemp-based food products. The ban, which is scheduled to come into forceFebruary 6, 2002, threatens the livelihood of an environmentally consciouscottage industry which generates an estimated US$7-million a year in that country.

Hemp comes from the same plant that produces marijuana, but containsnegligible amounts of THC, the chemical that gives pot its psychoactivekick. Traditionally used to make rope and textiles, hemp cultivation wascriminalized in both Canada and the U.S. in the late 1930s. The Canadiangovernment legalized commercial hemp cultivation again in 1998.

The DEA claims that consuming hemp products can screw up drug tests aimedat detecting pot. As a result, the agency wants to put hemp salad oil,pasta and cookies in the same legal category as hash oil, hashish andgrass.

The Hemp Industries Association, which represents hundredsof cannabis-based companies, has launched a furious lobbying effort againstthe DEA’s regulatory scheme. Kenex, a Canadian hempproducer based in Ontario, has filed a lawsuit against the agency,demanding $20-million in compensation under the North AmericanFree Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

In spite of such opposition, the DEA has not budged in their determinationto regulate the taste buds of American citizens.