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Press Release: Court Invalidates DEA Interpretive Rule on Hemp Foods DEA Rule “Legislative” and “Inconsistent with THC Regulation”

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – U.S. COURT of APPEALS for the NINTH CIRCUIT – The Hemp Industries Association (HIA), member food and body care companies, and their customers applauded a decision issued today by the US Court of Appeals in San Francisco, invalidating the Drug Enforcement Administration’s October 2001 “Interpretive Rule” that would have construed the Controlled Substances Act to ban edible hemp seed, oil and oil and seed products.

Writing for the majority opinion, Judge Betty Fletcher said, “Because the DEA rule is inconsistent with the THC regulation at the time of promulgation, it is a procedurally invalid legislative rule, not an interpretive rule. The petition requesting that we declare the rule to be invalid and unenforceable is granted.” The opinion is available at

“This is great news, but because the court narrowly declared the DEA ‘Interpretive Rule’ invalid on procedural grounds, hemp food remains in legal limbo until the court decides on the industry’s challenge to the DEA’s ‘Final Rule’ which is virtually identical to the ‘Interpretive Rule,'” said Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp, a non-profit organization dedicated to the acceptance of and free market for Industrial Hemp. “However, today’s court ruling not only ensures hemp foods will continue to be legally available to consumers in the meantime, but also strikes a major blow to the ultimate validity of DEA’s Final Rule,” added Steenstra.

On March 28, 2003 the HIA, several hemp food and cosmetic manufacturers and the Organic Consumers Association filed a brief in the Ninth Circuit asking for a review of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) “Final Rule” regarding hemp foods. If this new “Final Rule” were to take effect, it would ban hemp seed and oil and consequently destroy the multimillion-dollar hemp food industry. Due to a Court ordered Stay, hemp foods remain perfectly legal to import, sell and consume while the Court hears arguments from the HIA and DEA and renders a decision.

The HIA brief charges that the DEA’s “Final Rule” should be invalidated because the agency is exercising arbitrary and capricious authority by attempting to outlaw hemp seed and oil without holding formal hearings on the issue or finding any potential for abuse. Because trace infinitesimal THC in hemp seed is non-psychoactive and insignificant, Congress exempted non-viable hemp seed and oil from control under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), just as Congress exempted poppy seeds from the CSA, although they contain trace opiates otherwise subject to control. The brief also charges that the DEA acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner in exempting hemp seed mixed with animal feed, although Congress made no such distinction in the CSA.

Additionally, the brief elucidates other major failures by the DEA-namely, the lack of hearings on this issue and the failure to comply with the Regulatory Flexibility Act, which requires assessing effects of the proposed change on small businesses. The brief and other court documents are available at

Nutiva – Nourishing People and Planet
Nutiva sales are increasing at a rapid clip and the company is on track to achieve close to $1 million in sales in 2003. Nutiva demonstrates its mission to nourish people and planet by using healthy organic ingredients, enriching the soil and supporting just and sustainable causes. Nutiva donates 1% of sales to groups that promote sustainable agriculture. Founded in 1999, Nutiva offers nutritious organic hemp as well as flax food bars, hemp oil and oil capsules, and shelled hempseed nationwide at more than 1,600 natural food retailers. For more information, call (800) 993-4367, or write Nutiva, P.O. Box 1716, Sebastopol, CA 95473

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