Newsbrief: DEA Must Pay Hemp Industry Plaintiff's Legal Bills, Court Rules 2/4/05

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The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) must reimburse Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps more than $20,000 in legal bills the company accrued as it financed the Hemp Industry Association's (HIA) effort to overturn DEA attempts to ban the sale of foods containing hemp products. Citing the Equal Access to Justice Act, the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ordered the DEA to pay $21,265.

"The EAJA allows an award of attorneys fees in this situation only where the court finds the Government's position was not 'substantially justified,'" said Joe Sandler, HIA's counsel in the case. "By making this award, the Court has basically decided that DEA's attempt to outlaw hemp foods never had any real legal merit."

Lack of merit did not stop the DEA from reflexively attempting to bar hemp foods. In a three-year legal struggle that ended last September, the agency willfully misconstrued the language of the Controlled Substances Act, which clearly leaves non-psychoactive hemp outside the purview of DEA regulation, leaving the country's nascent hemp foods industry stalled at a time it should have been taking off. The DEA also argued that hemp foods must be banned because they could cause false positive readings on drug tests, a position the industry has effectively debunked.

"We are very pleased to recoup a portion of the costs associated in fighting off the DEA's illegal attempt to ban nutritious hemp seed," said Dr. Bronner's president David Bronner. "We plan to use the money to fund industrial hemp studies in Canada as well as legislative efforts to allow farmers to grow industrial hemp in the United States. Hemp seed for foods on account of its omega-3 content is the immediate market driver building economies of scale; we're also supporting hemp fiber research and applications as a substitute for timber in paper and fiberglass in composites."

"The recently revived global hemp market is a thriving commercial success," noted the Hemp Industry Association in a press release greeting the ruling. "Unfortunately, due to drug war paranoia, the DEA confuses non-psychoactive industrial hemp varieties of cannabis with psychoactive varieties, and thus the US is the only major industrialized nation to prohibit the growing of industrial hemp."

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Issue #373 -- 2/4/05

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