Michael C. Barnes is a Washington lawyer who formerly served as counsel in the Office of National Drug Control Policy. He wrote this OpEd in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution yesterday:
Don’t Get Sucked In By Hemp-Laced Foods
Notice the inflammatory language even in the headline with the word “laced.” And then he’s off:
Kudos to Georgia state senators who voted in favor of a bill to prevent the sale of marijuana-flavored candy. Members of the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee realized that the availability of hemp candy on store shelves is harmful to our children and undermines Georgia’s anti-drug laws.
Senate Bill 511, which did not win final legislative approval this year, only scratched the surface. Next session’s bill must be more protective.
Hemp is low-potency cannabis, i.e., marijuana. Hemp products are being freely sold to anyone who walks into certain specialty food stores. These stores carry items such as cereals, salad dressings, protein powers and dietary supplements that contain small amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol ( THC ), a hallucinogenic substance. Anyone with a credit card can go online to purchase these same products.
The sale — and marketing — of hemp food products raises several concerns. First, medical research tells us that even low levels of THC can build up in the body’s tissues, posing particular health risks, including nerve impairment and hormone disruption, to developing fetuses, young children and teenagers.
That’s right. He’s going after hemp. One of the safest and most nutritious products available in the world, and due to government regulations already in place, if you were to actually find any THC, the amounts would be ridiculously low. “Nerve impairment and hormone disruption”? Reefer madness stuff. Somebody show me the science on those claims!
You see, the DEA already tried to ban hemp food products back in 2001 through a back-door regulatory move, damaging a lot of small businesses who import hemp foods from Canada. The hemp industry had to spend a lot of money fighting it in court, but they won, and in 2004, the DEA finally gave up, realizing that they didn’t have a case.
Second, any drug prevention message could easily get lost on young people if they think it is OK to buy cannabis products at a grocery store or online. Children are already experimenting with marijuana at a young age. According to a 2004 University of Michigan study, 16 percent of eighth-graders, 35 percent of 10th-graders and 46 percent of 12th-graders have admitted to using marijuana at least once during their lifetimes.
The usual. Anytime I hear the words “message to the children” I start putting on my bullshit boots. Eating hemp granola bars is going to cause kids to want to smoke marijuana. Right. No — what causes kids to want to smoke marijuana is: first of all, that they’re kids; second, that prohibition encourages the sale of drugs to children; and third, our current prohibition scheme makes it attractive. As Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said Monday in the Associated Press:
In fact, Volkow fears anti-drug programs that attempt to scare teens may inadvertently spur drug experimentation.
“It is that notion of ‘I dare you,'” she says. “It may be appealing to an adolescent because they are seeking for danger in many instances.”
And so, back to the stupid anti-hemp OpEd:
Third, efforts at random drug testing can be circumvented. High school students who undergo drug tests, for instance, or the nation’s 12 million safety-sensitive transportation employees who likewise undergo drug screenings, can defend a positive drug test by claiming ingestion of one of these hemp products. Several scientific studies ( one of which is published in the Journal of Toxicology, ) have shown that eating hemp foods can cause positive results in urine specimens.
And so can eating poppy seed muffins, or taking Ibuprofen, or getting novocaine at the Dentist. But quality drug testing systems can deal with that — there’s a difference between a positive test and one that clearly shows use — and it is (and should be) up to the drug testers to figure out how to tell and prove the difference. Otherwise, we’re going to have to outlaw a whole bunch of innocuous or useful products. Even eating large amounts of hemp foods has very minimal effect on drug testing, and most hemp food products today have much less THC than was assumed in that study.
Fourth, permitting foods that contain hemp to be marketed, sold and consumed in the United States creates a slippery slope to the dissolution of our nation’s anti-drug laws. The Congressional Research Service has reported that the pro-hemp movement is spurred by drug legalization advocates, including Jack Herrer and High Times magazine.
This is the part I always enjoy. When they come after us. But let’s take a look at the slippery slope: How long have poppy seed muffins been legal? Well, then, there must be legal opium dens everywhere now, right? Hmm… I’m having a hard time finding my neighborhood opium den.
If, in fact, there is a slippery slope between legal hemp and legal marijuana, it’s because, through awareness of hemp and its true value, some people may realize that the prohibitionists have been lying to them about the entire marijuana plant and all of its properties. This isn’t really a slippery slope — it’s more of a greasy, cover your ass, prohibitionists slope.
These advocates argue that if hemp can be marketed, sold and consumed in the United States, it should be cultivated in the United States. Where low-potency cannabis may be grown as hemp, high-potency cannabis can also be grown as a drug of abuse.
Yep, we do argue that first part. However, the second sentence is… stupid. Where low-potency cannabis may be grown as hemp, that’s the last place that you’d want to grow high-potency cannabis. Any farmer or other human being with a brain and an education will tell you that cross-pollenization would be disastrous for either one.
Public officials at all levels of government play a role in reducing the availability of cannabis in the United States. At the national level, the Food and Drug Administration must strictly enforce the current laws on the books; companies that include hemp in their food products are in direct violation of FDA regulations. At the state and local levels, willing legislative bodies, like the Georgia Senate, should adopt more thoroughly protective bills that ban all cannabis plant derivatives from grocery store shelves.
Actually no, the food products are not in any violation of FDA regulations. FDA food regulations were put in place to regulate chemical additives, not traditional herbal ingredients. And the court ruled that the portions of the plant used for hemp foods are not subject to FDA regulation under the Controlled Substances Act.
If no action is taken, we as a society, it seems, are implicitly endorsing the sale of cannabis and effectively rendering our nation’s drug laws obsolete.
Ah, if only.
You know, reading this article made me realize that I need to buy some more hemp. Shelled hemp seeds are extremely tasty and very high in nutrition, including Omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to be beneficial for the prevention of heart disease and cancer. And there are tons of other useful hemp products.
Here’s a quick buying guide I put together a little over a year ago. It may be a little out of date, but it’ll give you some suggestions of places to start looking.
Update: Oh, why am I not surprised by this? Take a look who Michael C. Barnes is in bed with.