Pubdate: Fri, 23 May 2014
Source: Lexington Herald-Leader (KY)
Copyright: 2014 Lexington Herald-Leader
Author: Janet Patton
Bookmark: (Hemp)


After a week of legal drama, the hemp seed will be freed.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture was informed around 5 p.m. 
Thursday that the Drug Enforcement Administration has granted the 
state's permit to import hemp seed, according to Holly Harris 
VonLuehrte, chief of staff for Agriculture Commissioner James Comer.

"It's historic," Comer said Thursday night from Louisville. "We've 
paved the way for the rest of the nation to be able to do this, and I 
think it's exciting. Judging by interest exhibited by so many states 
wanting to get into this, that shows it's economically viable. ... 
We're in the lead here in Kentucky, and I hope it will be very profitable."

The DEA issued to the agriculture department a permit authorizing the 
importation of 130 kilograms of hemp seeds, according a statement Thursday.

VonLuehrte said the KDA was told an electronic copy of the permit was 
being sent to U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Louisville, where 
250 pounds of Italian hemp seed have been held up in a UPS warehouse for weeks.

Comer said his office hopes to get the seed first thing Friday morning.

"We'll get it to the universities, hopefully, tomorrow afternoon," 
Comer said. "It's a holiday weekend, but we're going to get right on it."

The KDA bought the seed, using donated funds, for pilot projects to 
grow the first legal hemp crop in the U.S. in decades.

Last week, Comer sued the DEA, Customs and Border Protection, the 
Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder after the 
seeds were seized.

The KDA said the seeds have to be in the ground by June 1.

In two preliminary hearings with U.S. District Judge John Heyburn, 
state and federal officials worked out a compromise to allow the 
seeds to be legally imported and planted.

The KDA plans several pilot projects with universities around the 
state. The shipment contains 13 cultivars of hemp, in 10-kilogram 
bags, which will be matched with the research focus of the 
universities, VonLuehrte said.

The KDA also has some hemp seed donated from a company in California; 
that seed was to have been planted last Friday in Rockcastle County, 
but the planting was delayed pending the resolution of the case.

The DEA apparently has agreed to allow farmers to grow hemp as an 
extension of the KDA, which means the state can expand hemp 
production next year.

On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Louisville, met with DEA 
Administrator Michele Leonhart in Washington to press the agency to 
move forward quickly on Kentucky's hemp paperwork.

McConnell this year inserted language into the federal Farm Bill that 
would allow state departments of agriculture and institutions of 
higher learning to grow hemp for research purposes.

"I am pleased the DEA has approved Kentucky's permit and the seeds 
are expected to be in the hands of Commissioner Comer soon," 
McConnell said in a statement late Thursday. "As I stressed yesterday 
in my meeting with the DEA administrator, it was the intent of my 
provision in the Farm Bill to allow states' departments of 
agriculture and universities to explore the commercial use of 
industrial hemp as a means for job creation and economic development. 
I'm hoping this is the final hurdle and Kentucky will soon be able to 
plant the seeds in the ground and begin our lawful pilot programs in 
exploring the potential for job creation in our Commonwealth."

Comer credited McConnell, along with his staff and supporters from 
around the state, with helping to "free the seeds," the Twitter 
hashtag many supporters used.

"I feel pretty good," Comer said. "We've been a beneficiary of a lot 
of supportive people in this issue."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom