Originally created 07/09/01

Hemp in Body Shop products draws DEA interest



SALT LAKE CITY, - Selena Kontuly swears she has never gotten high using lip balm, shampooing her hair or rubbing herself down with scented body butter.

The Drug Enforcement Administration, though, takes a different view of the products Kontuly pushes as manager of The Body Shop skin- and hair-care store in Salt Lake City.

The reason? Some of the personal-care items The Body Shop carries are made with hemp-seed oil that contains trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

And while The Body Shop's products are legal, the DEA in May indicated it is considering new regulations that will interpret existing drug laws to prohibit any product that allows THC to enter the body, no matter how small the amount, said Chad Little, spokesman for The Body Shop USA.

Hemp has a bad reputation because it is related to marijuana, but marijuana and hemp are two different varieties of the cannabis plant, Kontuly said.

"You'd have to smoke a joint the size of a telephone pole to get high on hemp."

On Thursday, The Body Shop USA launched a nationwide "Save Hemp" campaign at its 285 stores in the United States.

Hemp-oil products account for $5 million in sales at The Body Shop USA and about 5 percent of the nearly $1 billion in annual sales generated by its parent company in Britain. The company does not want to lose that revenue.

Nor does it want customers to lose access to what The Body Shop says are good products.

Hemp oil is a moisturizer that contains the same fatty acid found in skin and hair, Kontuly said. "It is easily absorbed and while you cannot get high, it does make your skin and hair happy."

Hemp has a history as an agricultural product in the United States, according to Richard Adams, author of "The U.S. Hemp Market: An Economic Examination of the Hemp Industry."

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams cultivated the versatile plants that today can be used in products that include fabrics and food, packaging and pasta.

"Indeed, so common was the use of hemp during the era that the first two drafts of the Declaration of Independence and the final version of the Constitution of the United States of America were, in fact, printed on paper made from hemp," Richard Adams wrote.

Hemp production was banned under the Marijuana Tax Act of 1938 because it is essentially the same plant as marijuana. With only a few exceptions, all industrial production of hemp in the United States is illegal.

However, hemp can be imported into the United States as a raw material or as an ingredient in finished products.

The hemp oil The Body Shop uses in its products is made in Canada.

The DEA's position is that all cannabis plants, including those grown for industrial use, contain THC, which is a hallucinogenic substance outlawed under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

"The drafted regulations focus on whether the particular cannabis-derived 'hemp' product causes THC to enter the body," according to a DEA fact sheet. "If so, the product will remain a Schedule 1 controlled substance."

If, however, use of the product (such as in paper or clothing) does not cause THC to enter the human body, the product will be exempt from control and not subject to any of the regulations that apply to controlled substances, it said.