Sneaker Madness : Drug Chief Asks Adidas to Drop Hemp Name

From Associated Press

Adidas' Hemp sports shoe sends a bad message about drugs to American kids, the Clinton administration's drug policy director says. Counters the company: No one's "smoking our shoes."

Lee Brown, exiting director of the White House's National Drug Control Policy Office, wants Adidas America to change the name of its new shoe--the Hemp--because the word is also street slang for marijuana.

The unisex shoe hit stores in December and taps the growing demand for footwear made of natural and recyclable materials, Adidas spokesman John Fread said.

The company says it lauds Brown's overall goal--to reduce drug abuse--and has supported a variety of anti-drug programs, but, Fread said, Adidas has no plans to change the shoe's name.

Brown first asked Adidas to change the name in a letter to the company Jan. 5.

In a Jan. 11 response, Adidas President Steve Wynne noted that the word "hemp" describes more than 30 types of vegetable crops.

Adidas uses a hemp species known for its long, straight fibers. These fibers have only trace concentrations of THC, the psychoactive element in marijuana.

"For that reason, products made from hemp, including our shoes, have no drug qualities. I don't believe you will encounter anyone smoking our shoes any time soon," Wynne wrote to Brown.

On Friday, Brown sent Adidas another letter, admonishing the company for "sarcasm" and again asking it to change the name.

"What your shoe is made of is not the problem," Brown wrote Wynne. "The problem is what you call it. The sarcasm in your letter shows a blatant disregard of the fact that we have a crisis among kids who think using marijuana is the thing to do."

Fread said the company has not decided whether it will respond.

The drug office's powers are mostly advisory. It can't force a company to change a product name or its marketing. But aides said the office has been successful in persuading at least one company, Royal Crown, to change a label so a soft drink didn't look like beer.

Wynne in his letter to Brown suggested that instead of bothering Adidas, "your time and the taxpayers' money could be more appropriately committed to finding a way to stem the sewer of illegal drugs that runs through our country."

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