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Frequently Asked Questions about Hemp Foods

Boulder Hemp Company, July 1999

What is Hemp?

Hemp is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant that contains no psychoactive properties and is grown for fiber and seed production. Hemp can be used to make over 25,000 different products, including textiles, paper, paint, biofuel, particle board, plastics, cordage, and food.

Hemp fiber and its seed have a history of human use over 10,000 years old, but is currently illegal to cultivate in the U.S., making us the only industrialized country in the world that does not allow its farmers to grow this beneficial crop.

Can you eat hemp seed?

Yes! Hemp grain has been used throughout history as an abundant and nutritional food source. Hemp grain produces two distinct food products: oil and flour. The oil is made into salad dressings, soups, butter, and cheese. The flour can be used as a complement to wheat or corn flour to make breads, pancakes, pizza dough, cookies, and many other foods.

How do you process the grain?

The hemp grain that we use in our food products is imported from China and Canada and is sterilized so it will not grow. We press the hemp grain using a cold expeller press to extract the seed oil, which comprises 30% of the weight of the seed. After the oil has been removed, a seed "cake" remains. We grind and sift this cake to produce high-quality hemp flour.

How healthy is hemp grain?

Hemp grain is the most nutritionally complete seed on the planet for human consumption. Each hemp seed contains 25% protein. This protein is more easily digestible than the protein in soybeans because it contains a perfect ratio of essential fatty acids (EFA's). EFA's are important for strengthening your immune system and protecting you from disease. Fish oil and flax oil are also high in EFA's, but hemp contains the most perfect ratio of EFA's for human consumption. Hemp grain is also high in iron and calcium and is an excellent source of dietary fiber (click here to see more information regarding the health benefits of hemp seed).

What does it taste like?

Delicious! Hemp seeds have a nutty flavor. When processed into flour and mixed with wheat or corn flour, the taste of the seeds is subtle, but provides hemp foods with a hearty and healthy flavor. Some say it "tastes like freedom."

Why not "de-hull" the hemp seeds?

The most nutritional benefits come from using the whole seed. Removing the shell, or "de-hulling", hemp seeds has been touted by some food manufacturers to make the hemp seed less gritty and to reduce the possibility of using hemp seeds containing over the Canadian limit of 0.1% THC residue. BHC prefers to use the whole seed to process into flour, thereby maintaining the healthy fiber contained in the hull. Our grinding process produces a flour so fine as to eliminate any grittiness that might be present with less rigorous processing. And we preserve all of the dietary fiber, one of the main benefits of eating hemp food! De-hulling the seeds is an unnecessary and expensive process. Since we rely on licensed Canadian producers, we guarantee our products will not exceed the Canadian limit on THC residue and will not cause a positive urinalysis test for THC.

What are the legal issues involving hempfoods industries?

BHC makes hempfoods from freshly-ground hemp seed flour. The seed we use is grown from non-drug industrial hemp plants, and steam sterilized, in Canada. We may legally use sterilized seed. Title 21 (Food and Drugs) of the U.S. Code, Chapter 13 (Drug Abuse Prevention and Control), Section 802 (16) in its definition of "marihuana" exempts mature stalks of such plant, fiber provided from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil or cake or the sterilized seed of such plant, which is incapable of germination." Since this definition was adopted in 1937, sterilized hemp seed has been legal in the U.S.

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the psychoactive chemical in Cannabis sativa. THC is found only in the leaves and flowers of medicinal Cannabis, not in industrial hemp, and not within the seeds themselves. Industrial hemp, as grown in Canada and Europe, is already non-drug, containing less than 0.3% THC in its leaves and flowers, far below the psychoactive threshold. Cannabis sold as a drug in the U.S. typically contains in excess of 4% to 20% THC. If the grain is not well-cleaned, some residue from the leaves may remain on the grain. The Canadian limit for THC residue on the grain is under 0.1% THC or 10 micrograms per gram. - a very low amount. All of our grain meets this Canadian requirement. However, the U.S. does not have any requirements for THC residue. Under federal law passed in 1937, the grain need only be sterilized to prevent growth in order to meet the U.S. legal requirements.

Could I ever test positive for THC in an urinalysis test after eating BHC hempfoods?

No! The seeds grown for hempfoods come from non-drug plants. The amounts of THC, if any, contained in the residue surrounding the seeds, are so infinitesimally small that they could not cause a person to test positive on any test for THC. However, this has not prevented some people from blaming hemp food consumption for their positive drug tests. The drug testing industry needs to develop standards for eliminating these bogus claims, much as they developed standards for people who claimed they tested positive for the presence of opiates caused by their consumption of poppy seeds. According to Don Wirtshafter of The Ohio Hempery Inc. (http://www.hempery.com), "The issue is similar to poppy seeds affecting urine tests providing a false positive for heroin consumption. The urine testing industry has dealt with this issue by requiring a medical examination of any failed employee who claims poppy seeds as an excuse. Nobody has ever called for a ban on poppy seed imports."

What is going on with the DEA?

On August 9, 1999, U.S. Customs, under orders from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, illegally seized a shipment of legal hemp grain coming into the U.S. from Canada. The grain was owned by Kenex (http://www.kenex.com), Canada's largest hemp producer. The DEA and U.S. Customs also illegally ordered several U.S. companies to return their seed meal, oil, hempseed nuts, granola bars, horse bedding and sterilized grain that they had previously received from Kenex.

For almost two months, the DEA and Customs refused to provide any written statement authorizing their actions. When the story finally became public at the beginning of October, the DEA released a statement to the press stating that, although sterilized Cannabis seed has "traditionally" been legal, they are now considering it to be a controlled substance if it contains any amount of THC. Now, under pressure from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, U.S. Customs has issued new guidelines that makes hemp seed illegal to import if it contains any trace amount of THC.

We cannot stress enough the fact that the DEA's actions were/are illegal. They are a federal enforcement agency, designed to enforce laws enacted by the legislative branch. They have no power to re-write the federal definition of marihuana, only Congress can do that. See http://www.levellers.org/dea for more information on this issue.

What is the DEA's motivation?

Fear, power, and money drive the DEA to engage a well-orchestrated attempt to kill the developing hemp industry in the U.S. and Canada. Canada, which began commercial production of hemp in 1998, is relying on the U.S. market to consume 95% of its products. The U.S. hemp industry sells over $50 million dollars of hemp products a year and is growing rapidly.

The U.S. War on Cannabis consumes over $15 billion of U.S. taxpayer money every year, a large portion of which goes to the DEA. In short, the DEA is worried about their job security. Even though no one could get high from smoking industrial hemp leaves, let alone the residue around the seeds, the DEA is determined to ban hemp products completely in the U.S.

The DEA is playing for keeps. They will not give in unless they receive an immense amount of pressure from your federal legislators or unless they are sued in federal court to stop their illegal actions. The Boulder Hemp Company is actively pursuing both of these avenues. We welcome your assistance.

WHAT YOU CAN DO?

Contact your federal legislators and ask them to stop the DEA from trying to illegally kill hemp industry. For more information on how to contact legislators see http://www.levellers.org. Please also forward copies of any letters you send to cohip@levellers.org.

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