Ruling could end Nature�s Path product
Nature�s Path could lose millions of dollars in sales, and customers could lose a popular product, if the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency prohibits foods containing hemp. The Blaine plant currently makes hemp granola, a product that accounts for three percent of annual sales.
The DEA recently decided to prohibit foods that contain traces of tetrahydrocannabinols, commonly called THC, a psychoactive substance found in marijuana. There is a small amount of THC in industrial hemp, but not enough to produce a high. Hempplus granola, in the form of cereal and waffles, is produced by Nature�s Path.
David Neuman, vice president of sales and marketing, said the company uses hemp that is hulled and sterilized, and no intoxication occurs after consumption. �This is a superior, nutritious food. We have the number one hemp food product in the United States,� he said. �You do not get high from this.�
The company, he said, has performed all of the necessary THC testing, and the granola has been found to contain none. �The tests we do come back non-detectable,� he said, adding the company has cut back production by more than 50 percent.
The government, however has stated it intends to test edible products made from hemp. The DEA has set an April 21 deadline for businesses to stop hemp food production and comply with the new restrictions. �If there is no intervention on April 21, then we will continue production,� Neuman said.
Under the new ruling, it would be illegal to consume hemp, however, it could still be legally imported for use in making ropes, clothing, paper, shampoo and other products. Hemp, although illegal to grow in the United States, can be legally imported, usually from Canada.
�We normally produce in Blaine and warehouse in Canada. But all of our hemp seed comes from Canada,� he said, adding there are now concerns about transporting it across the border.
In a March 21 news release, the DEA declared that THC is a controlled substance, meaning it is in the same classification as heroin, LSD, marijuana and ecstasy.
�In some cases, a Schedule 1 controlled substance may have a legitimate industrial use,� the news release stated, adding the DEA exempted some products. �Some examples of these exempted industrial products are paper, rope, and clothing (which contain fiber from the cannabis plant) and animal feed mixtures, soaps and shampoos (which contain sterilized cannabis seeds or oils extracted from the seeds). DEA is exempting these types of industrial cannabis products from control because they are not intended for human consumption and do not cause THC to enter the human body.�
Nature�s Path clarifies the effects of THC on its website, stating �Hulled hempseed is not to be confused with marijuana. Ingesting foods with hulled hempseeds does not lead to intoxication. True, all hemp plants have delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) but the residual level in hulled hempseeds used for food is so miniscule � usually measured in one or two parts per million � that intoxication is a very remote possibility.�
�The retailers love it (the product) because it is �trendy�, healthy, organic and tastes great. No one has really turned their nose up at the hemp,� Neuman states on the site.
Amid all of the controversy about the products, sales of Nature�s Path hemp foods have increased about 20 percent in the past year. �It�s been growing every year. And the DEA action actually boosted sales,� he said. �If there wasn�t a customer base for it, then we wouldn�t be making it. More people are interested in it because of all the publicity.�
�This is an infringement on our rights. The government has taken a stance on a completely benign food,� Neuman said. �There has been no public outcry about hemp. No one�s complaining about it, except for the government.� .