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Actress Julia Roberts and consumer crusader Ralph Nader have more in common than you might think...They both like hemp.
Nader talked about hemp's "wonderful impact on the body," at a press conference and hemp-based luncheon last week. Hemp supporters say Roberts uses hair care products made of hemp.
As reporters waited to nibble on such hemp-infused delicacies as Bahama hemp nut-crusted wild salmon and hemp nut-crusted key lime pie, Nader, hemp producers and representatives of votehemp.com said U.S. laws that outlaw growing the plant should be changed.
Hemp food is "delicious," Nader said.
Industrial hemp farming hasn't been allowed in the United States since1970, when the federal Controlled Substances Act included industrial hemp in its definition of marijuana.
Hemp fibers are as commonly used for inedible purposes as its oil and seeds are for edible ones, said Adam Eidinger, communications director for votehemp.com.
"I mean, paper, clothing, car parts - nobody's eating that stuff," he said.
Eidinberg noted the similarities between hemp seeds and poppy seeds. No one will fail a drug test after eating poppy seeds - the tests aren't sensitive enough to detect the contents of someone's breakfast of a lemon-poppy seed muffin. And no one would fail a drug test after eating hemp seeds - unless it's several pounds, he said.
Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, sponsor of H.R. 3037, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2005, said industrial hemp's low THC content causes it to be non-psychoactive.
"Federal law concedes the safety of industrial hemp by allowing it to be legally imported for use as food," he said.
But Congress' only response to attempts to legalize industrial hemp growing in the United States has been silence or a flat-out no, Nader said. He said the United States is the No. 1 importer of the crop. Out of more than 30 industrialized countries, the United States is the only one not allowed to produce its own.
Eidinger said the government's biggest fear is that marijuana will be mixed in hemp fields - the plants have a similar appearance. He said members of Congress recognize industrial hemp's positive aspects but are afraid to support it because it would appear that they are endorsing marijuana.
The Drug Enforcement Agency said it was not allowed to discuss the bill or previous attempts to legalizing industrial hemp. The Office of National Drug Control Policy said it cannot comment on the bill. The Partnership for a Drug-Free America, a non-profit group that fights drug abuse, said it views the issue of industrial hemp as similar to that of medical marijuana and prefers not to take a stand on those issues.
The bill would allow states to regulate industrial hemp farmers to give them independence from federal restrictions.
Reps. Sam Farr, D-Calif.; Pete Stark, D-Calif.; Jim McDermott D-Wash.; George Miller D-Calif.; and Ra?l Grijalva, D-Ariz., all are co-sponsors but did not attend the luncheon.
The meal, catered by Executive Chef Dennis Cicero of Galaxy Global Eatery in New York, included five courses using hemp nuts and hemp oil. Some of the other dishes included Fuji fennel hempseed salad with caperberry hemp dressing, enoki mushroom and radish summer salad with yuzu hemp oil dressing and tempura hemp tofu steaks.