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Defenders extol hemp’s virtues

Petitions target efforts to keep plant controlled substance

SHARE Defenders extol hemp’s virtues

A Utah retailer on Thursday took up the cause to save industrial hemp from the fate of its nefarious sister, marijuana.

Industrial hemp belongs to the same plant family as marijuana but can be used to make paper, rope, clothing and personal care products like lotion and shampoo.

At The Body Shop in Crossroads Mall, store manager Selena Kontuly on Thursday asked Utahns to send a message to the Drug Enforcement Administration by signing a petition in support of hemp. The Body Shop, based in Great Britain with more than 1,700 locations worldwide, carries several hemp-based products, including lotions, lip balm, shampoo and conditioner.

Hemp has only a fraction of the hallucinogenic substance tetrahydrocannabinols (THC) found in marijuana, Kontuly said, and will not alter psychological or physical functioning.

In fact, Kontuly said, hemp seed contains the same oils that are found in human hair and skin and is therefore ideal for customers who have eczema or psoriasis or who live in dry climates like Utah.

"The Body Shop stands behind hemp because it's a wonderful product for our customers with dry skin," Kontuly said. "And because it is an alternative source of fuel, paper and fiber."

DEA officials declined to respond to The Body Shop's "Save Hemp" campaign. But in a fact sheet distributed Thursday, the agency stated it is consulting with a number of federal agencies in an effort to determine how to balance health, environmental and business concerns with regard to hemp.

Proposed regulations set forth by the DEA specify that hemp products that enter the body will remain a controlled substance. But if the product — such as paper or clothing — does not enter the body, it will be exempted from federal regulations.

Kontuly said if the DEA proposals become law, The Body Shop will have to pull at least one of its products — the lip balm — from its shelves. To prevent that, each of the shops is inviting its customers to sign a petition in support of hemp, which will be sent to the DEA Wednesday. Kontuly said more than 35,000 signatures have been collected so far in the United States, with more stores still to report their results.

"Of course, we will comply with all the new rules and laws that are passed," she said. "But we would have a lot of very unhappy customers. These products have a huge following."

One of those customers is 18-year-old Joanne Buringurd, who also is a hemp advocate.

"I have the lip balm in my bag right now," she said. "And it's not just these products, either. I buy hemp. Hemp can save trees. It can save a lot of resources that we've depleted."

Hemp and marijuana are not the same thing, Buringurd said.

"Marijuana gets you high," she said. "Hemp can't make you high. One is a drug. Just because they are of the same plant family, they're still very different. Hemp doesn't have THC levels high enough to get you high."

The DEA maintained it is charged with enforcing the Controlled Substances Act, which includes all plants or products containing THC. For more information about the act, log on to the DEA Web site at www.dea.gov.

E-MAIL: jnii@desnews.com