The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is to extend the grace period for hemp food products containing THC until 18 March 2002, according to the US Court of Appeals.
The decision follows a court battle on 6 February when the Hemp Industries Association and several hemp foods companies protested against a DEA ruling that Whole Foods were to remove hemp food products from their shelves.
The DEA had issued an interpretive rule on 9 October last year to make hemp foods that contained trace amounts of THC immediately illegal under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970.
The hemp foods industry has been up in arms over the rule, stating that miniscule amounts of THC in hemp foods are non-psychoactive and do not interfere with workplace drug testing.
Daniel Dormont, senior attorney for DEA, wrote in a letter to the Court of Appeals, "In the view of the Court's inquiry, DEA will extend the grace period for an additional 40 days, through to March 18, 2002. As we discussed, this should allow the Court to rule on the motion prior to the expiration of the grace period."
This extension is viewed as a victory by the hemp foods industry, which expects to eventually prevail and operate under an exemption from the CSA similar to the exemption poppy seed manufacturers enjoy. "We expect that the court will rule in our favour and DEA will not be able to enforce their rule," said David Bronner, chair of the food and oil committee for HIA, based in California.
"This is a ruling on a preliminary motion. There is a chance that the court will rule against us but we feel our case is so compelling that we should get the ruling," he added.
The grace period will allow the court to rule on the industry's appeal within 40 days to decide whether DEA can enforce its interpretive rule. However, the resolution of the industry's full case will take several months more to resolve.
"THC is relatively benign at active levels, compared to, say, arsenic, and even arsenic has a non-zero standard," said Bronner. "It's ridiculous that DEA says [THC] has to be a true zero or just refuses to specify some sort of non-zero limit based on scientific rationale."