Kentucky's Hemp Saga Appears Headed for Court

May 13, 2014

Credit Erik Fenderson (Wikimedia Commons)

  The Kentucky Department of Agriculture is preparing to go to court to get 250 pounds of hemp seeds released to the state.  The seeds, imported from Italy, are being held at a UPS warehouse in Louisville.  The Drug Enforcement Administration argues a special permit is needed from the federal agency, despite language in the Farm Bill.                                               

"If you will look at the Farm Bill, it starts off saying 'Not withstanding any other federal law.'  In spite of these other federal laws, Congress intended that we still be allowed to do this,” said Holly VonLuerhte, chief of staff for Agriculture Commissioner James Comer. “Under DEA's interpretation, we have the authority to conduct pilot programs but we don't have the authority to get the seeds, which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever."

The seeds are intended to be planted for research projects with Kentucky’s universities and are supposed to be in the ground by June 1st.  

“We've been told by agricultural experts if we don't have this industrial hemp seed in the ground by June 1, then the likelihood is that it won't come up,” says VonLuerhte.

Obtaining a DEA permit could take several months, making it impossible to plant the seeds this year. The agriculture department is planning to ask a federal judge in Louisville on Wednesday to force U.S. Customs officials to release the seeds.