Ag Department and DEA sow seeds of agreement for release of hemp

05/16/2014 02:12 PM

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture is close to getting access to the 250 pounds of hemp seeds that have been held up by U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency officials in Louisville.

Holly Harris VonLuehrte, the chief of staff for Kentucky’s agriculture department, told Pure Politics on Friday the Ag Deparment and DEA have agreed on a process to release the seeds, which will be used in pilot projects to test the growth and industrial potential of the crop.

The DEA had seized a 250-pound shipment of hemp seeds in Louisville, and until now, had refused to release the seeds to the Agriculture Department for those five pilot projects in different regions.

With the planting season looming, Agriculture Commissioner James Comer has filed an injunction in federal circuit court asking the agency to release the seeds.

VonLuehrte told Pure Politics that the DEA is asserting that federal import/export laws trump language within the Farm Bill.

In federal court on Friday, the Department of Agriculture agreed to fill out an import/ export permit for the cannabis seeds. In exchange, the DEA has agreed to expedite the processing of those seeds and then turn them over, according to VonLuehrte.

U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Vanceburg, is calling the fight over hemp in Kentucky “ironic” given the federal government has essentially turned their heads when it comes to other states growing and selling of marijuana.

“We got hemp legalized for Kentucky. The president and his administration keep us from growing hemp, but in other states they’ve decided not to enforce the law,” Massie said in a phone interview with Pure Politics on Friday.

Massie was one of the main proponents of legalizing hemp. Eventually Congress included the provision in the omnibus Farm Bill that passed and was signed into law by President Barack Obama in February.

“They have no jurisdiction here,” Massie said explaining that the Farm Bill language denies the DEA oversight of hemp in Kentucky.

With farmers waiting to get seed into the ground, all eyes are on the courts.

Thirty pounds of seed already arrived in the state, but that seed came from California and not from outside of the country like the seed which has been stopped at the Louisville airport.

VonLuehrte says the 250 pounds of seed were also stopped in Chicago, but the agency simply read the Farm Bill language to drug enforcement agents and they released the seed — only for it to be stopped again in Kentucky.

Colorado and Washington states are allowing full scale marijuana legalization, and VonLuehrte points out the hypocrisy of the “selective enforcement.”

“Win or lose at least the judge will settle the law and the rest of the country has a process,” she said.

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@charter.com.

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