January 17, 2002
Canadian Firm to Sue U.S. Government Over Hemp Foods Ban
"Myopic and Absurd" Policy Violates NAFTA, Company Charges
Chatham, Ontario: A Canadian firm that manufactures and distributes hempen goods to the United States announced plans this week to sue the U.S. government for more than C$20 million ($12.7 million) in damages because of a recently enacted DEA ban on certain hemp food and oil products.
"We are filing this NAFTA action because the DEA, ... through its recent ruling, seeks to effectively prevent Kenex from accessing American markets for its hemp food products, on which the firm depends for over three-quarters of its business," Kenex president Jean Laprise said in a statement. Kenex Limited is Canada's oldest hemp manufacturing and processing firm, producing an array of hemp seed, food and fiber products. Canada legalized the commercial cultivation of hemp in 1998.
Last October, DEA officials announced new regulations criminalizing the possession and manufacture of any edible hemp seed or oil products - including snack bars, veggie burgers and salad oils - that test positive for trace levels of THC out of concern that such products might inadvertently cause a consumer to test positive on illicit drug tests. By contrast, Canada allows the sale and possession of edible hemp goods as long as they contain amounts of THC below ten micrograms per gram.
Kenex maintains that the DEA's ban conflicts with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) - which recognizes hemp as a legal agricultural commodity - because: "The DEA did not provide any notice and opportunity for U.S. trading partners or foreign companies to provide input into its ruling; the agency did not conduct a risk assessment or offer any other science-based rational for issuance of the rule; the DEA did not seek to minimize impact on international trade; and it has not similarly regulated poppy seeds and their trace opiates."
A statement by the Canadian government (provided by Kenex) backs the company's claims, declaring: "There is no evidence that the effective ban on relevant Canadian food products on the U.S. market is based on any risk assessment. Therefore, Canada objects to these measures."
Last week, the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) and seven hemp food companies filed a brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals urging the court to enjoin the DEA ban.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director, at (202) 483-8751 or visit: http://www.votehemp.com.
UK to Test Marijuana for Cancer Pain
London, United Kingdom: A London company licensed to grow and test medical marijuana in clinical trials is set to begin evaluating the drug's effectiveness on patients suffering from cancer pain. The Phase III trial, to be administered by GW Pharmaceuticals, will take place at more than 20 centers throughout England and involve over 100 patients.
Patients in the trial will receive marijuana extracts via a sublingual (under-the-tongue) spray. Previous studies by GW Pharmaceuticals on Multiple Sclerosis and spinal cord injury patients found that nearly 80 percent of those administered cannabis extracts experienced a reduction in pain and an improved quality of life.
The upcoming cancer pain study will be the first large-scale trial to examine the analgesic effects of marijuana on cancer-related pain. "The potential market is very significant since approximately 40 percent of cancer sufferers at present have unmet needs in pain suppression," GW Pharmaceuticals Chairman Geoffrey Guy said.
In its year-end company report, Managing Director Justin Gover reaffirmed GW's intentions to present its patient trial data to UK regulatory authorities sometime next year. "We remain on track to deliver our first products to market in 2004," Gover said in a prepared statement. He added that GW recently attained approval from American authorities to import cannabis extracts into the United States.
For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Director of Publications and Research, at (202) 483-5500 or visit: http://www.gwpharm.com.
Brazilian President Vetoes Landmark Legislation Decriminalizing Marijuana, Other Drugs
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil: Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso vetoed legislation last week that would have replaced criminal penalties for marijuana possession and other drug offenses with alternative sentencing measures such as community service and civil fines.
Members of the Brazilian Congress had debated the drug liberalization provisions for 10 years before finally approving the measure in September. Brazil's current anti-drug laws mandate that drug offenders, including those convicted of first-time marijuana offenses, go to jail for a period of up to two years. Brazilian drug-law reformers estimate that drug offenders now constitute approximately one-third of those who are sentenced to prison.
A spokesman for the President said that Cardoso vetoed the drug liberalization provisions because they were "unconstitutional." However, the President did sign into law other provisions of the bill aimed at enhancing criminal penalties for drug traffickers.
Despite rejecting Congress' "harm reduction" strategy, the President does back non-criminal sanctions for first-time drug offenders, his spokesman said. Cardoso is expected to introduce an alternative measure to Congress later this spring.
For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-5500.
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