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Budding opposition to threatened hemp ban 

A proposed regulation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration aiming to outlaw cosmetics and food products containing hemp -- the plant family which includes marijuana -- has spurred a petition drive by an international chain of skin- and hair-care product stores.

Starting this week, some 300 U.S. outlets of The Body Shop will ask customers to sign petitions opposing the move, which threatens a line of hemp-based products that, according to a local Body Shop manager, pulls in some $5 million in revenue annually.

"This has nothing to do with marijuana legalization or anything like that," says Darren Duncan, who oversees one of six local Body Shop outlets. "Hemp is not marijuana; you can't get high on any of our products."

Duncan says the new rules would immediately force his company to pull only lip-care products from the shelves, "but our fear is that this is only one step" toward a total ban, which would force them to stop selling their entire line of hemp-related products, including body lotions, shower washes and shampoos.

Duncan says his company hopes to send at least 30,000 signatures to Washington in July, urging the DEA to scrap the proposal, and calling upon Congress to oppose the rules and explore the possibilities of commercial hemp production.

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