Hemp Beer Under Fire in Alabama!

Hemp Beer Under Fire in Alabama!
Posted by FoM on March 11, 1999 at 09:14:33 PT

NEW YORK After tasting a beer made with hemp seeds on the way home from Mexico last month, President Clinton quickly learned that hemp brew violates military rules.But Hempen Ale and Hempen Gold, the two brands available on the flight, are completely legal by federal law.
Marjorie McGinnis should know. As the president of the Frederick Brewing Company of Maryland, McGinnis spent two years pushing paperwork through the ATF, the DEA, and the FDA to win approval for the two hemp-flavored brands.That's why McGinnis was surprised when, a few weeks ago, a legal notice from Alabama attorney H. Jadd Fawwal arrived in the mail charging her company and its Alabama distributor, Crown Distributing Company, with the unlawful distribution of a controlled substance."Actually, we laughed," said McGinnis, "and the reasoning was, great, this'll get us some free press. I bet we'll sell a lot of beer down there in the next few days."The two hemp brands, both of which have won awards at beer festivals, are marketed in 37 states plus Canada. Frederick Brewing uses 10-20,000 pounds of hemp seed per month to make the beers.The beer's motto is "It's perfectly legal."Hempen Ale and Hempen Gold went on sale in Alabama six months ago. She said she hadn't heard any complaints until Fawwal's lawsuit reached her desk."The lawsuit is certainly a first for us," she said. "We're not sure what Mr. Fawwal has up his sleeve but I guess we'll find out."After learning of the suit, she contacted Ken Friedman, president of the Seattle-based Hemp Industries Association, who put her in touch with Alabama attorney Ralph Bolen."This came out of nowhere," said Friedman, who said he didn't know of any hemp brewer being similarly sued. The United States now has half a dozen, though Frederick Brewing Co. was the first.Bolen has filed a series of motions, including one to have the case dismissed and one to have it moved to another venue, Friedman said.Fawwal filed the suit on behalf of the state of Alabama in Jefferson County Circuit Court in Bessemer. In his complaint, he asks to have the companies' charters revoked.Fawwal argues that the brewer and its distributor are illegally selling a controlled substance, because the seeds contain traces of marijuana's psychoactive ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.He also claims that they are illegally leading consumers to believe that they are buying a controlled substance.Fawwal's complaint alleges that the "It's perfectly legal" logo is nothing but a coy insinuation that the beer is a legal way to imbibe an illegal substance."These proceedings will result in benefit to the general public and under a public service," Fawwal concludes, adding, "therefore, award of attorney fees is prayed for and justified."Although Friedman feels that Fawwal's suit is frivolous, he acknowledges that Alabama law contains two contradictory definitions of marijuana.The original law, dating from 1975, specifically excludes the hemp plant's fibers, mature stems, and sterilized seeds.However, a criminal sentencing code was subsequently passed to fend off marijuana growers' defense that they shouldn't be charged for the total weight of their plants because the whole plant isn't illegal.The code includes the stems and seeds. No other state criminalizes all parts of the hemp plant, said Friedman, and federal law passed in 1937 excluded them."Sooner of later, a judge is going to have to decide which [the law] means," said Friedman. "There's a lot of hemp commerce in Alabama so of course there's a lot of concern that they might be next."Bolan has already had to defend the owner of a Hoover, Ala. hemp store, Bohemian Rhapsody, when the police raided it in 1997. The merchandise was eventually returned and the charges dismissed.Although growing hemp has been illegal in the U.S. since World War II, it is legal to import its seeds and products made from its fibers.Shops in most college towns and large cities openly sell hemp products, from skin creams to cloth hats to salad dressings. Wal Mart's bird seed contains hemp, as do some automobile parts.Hemp plants are closely related to marijuana plants, and are virtually indistinguishable to the naked eye. Chemical analysis, however, reveals that hemp seeds and stems contains only minute traces of THC.A Department of Defense laboratory study released last December showed that drinking hemp beer will not result in a positive drug test, although hemp tea and hemp-seed oil, often taken as a nutritional supplement, will occasionally lead to false-positive results.The military has banned hemp consumption, in part because it could allow pot-smoking soldiers to explain away positive drug test results with what the hemp study's director, Lt. Commander Kenneth Cole, termed the "Hempen Ale Defense."While wearing hemp clothing obviously does not affect drug test results, the fabric can give off a certain recognizable odor that could arouse equal suspicion.The drug czar, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, adamantly opposes hemp cultivation because it sends a "confusing message" to kids about marijuana and makes it harder for law enforcement officers to identify marijuana growers.But the help-cultivation movement has been gaining strength in recent years, thanks to an unlikely alliance of struggling rural farmers and counterculture environmental activists.After it emerged that President Clinton had tasted Hempen Ale and Hempen Gold on Air Force One, Body Shop president Anita Roddick sent him a letter of support for "breaking the hemp barrier," along with a complimentary selection of hemp-based Body Shop products.Hemp, she and other advocates are eager to point out, was grown by both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. The Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper, they say, and a 1941 war poster urges farmers to "Grow Hemp for the War."In Frederick County, Maryland, the home of McGinnis' brewery, hemp was grown from Colonial times until the 1940s, with tens of thousands of pounds cultivated per year in the 1800s.A hardy plant that can grow reach maturity in 100 days, without chemical pesticides or herbicides, hemp has been put to 25,000 different uses, its proponents say, from health-care products to paper and textiles.It can be legally grown in numerous countries, including China, Great Britain, France, Russia, and as of 1998, Canada.Many agricultural states have argued for its legalization here to give struggling farmers an alternative to crops declining either in price or demand.Montana passed a formal resolution urging the U.S. government to legalize hemp-growing. The Kentucky Hemp Farmers' Cooperative, many of whose hundred members are skeptical of the future of tobacco cultivation, is pursuing a federal lawsuit to legalize it.Hawaii state representative Cynthia Thielen, who says hemp could replace her state's declining sugar industry, has written to Alabama's governor Don Siegelman to protest Fawwal's suit.In addition to a spike in sales, McGinnis is also looking forward to the chance to promote hemp tolerance in a country that, despite a recent push to legalize the medical use of marijuana, remains wary of anything associated with drugs."We're just trying to eliminate the objections, one by one," McGinnis said, adding wryly, "it's wonderful being a pioneer." Court TV Online: U.S.
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Comment #1 posted by JESSIE NOGARO on June 17, 2001 at 21:53:08 PT:
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