Pubdate: Wed, 21 May 2014
Source: Lexington Herald-Leader (KY)
Copyright: 2014 Lexington Herald-Leader
Author: Bruce Schreiner, Associated Press


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky's industrial hemp commission on
Tuesday approved regulations setting guidelines for research projects
that are meant to reintroduce the crop but are being stalled by a
legal fight over distribution of seeds.

The regulations aimed at keeping track of test hemp plots were drafted
by the state Agriculture Department. The guidelines next go to Gov.
Steve Beshear for his review.

Later Tuesday, Holly Harris VonLuehrte, Agriculture Commissioner James
Comer's chief of staff, said the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
had approved an import permit for hemp seeds. State officials have
been assured they will be able Wednesday to get a shipment of hemp
seed that has been held up.

"I think it's laying out a process for the rest of the country,"
VonLuehrte said. "There will be hopefully no more arbitrary actions."

Growing hemp without a federal permit was banned in 1970 due to its
classification as a controlled substance related to marijuana.

Hemp and marijuana are the same species, Cannabis sativa, but hemp has
a negligible amount of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives
marijuana users a high. Hemp's comeback was spurred by the new federal
farm bill, which allows state agriculture departments to designate
hemp pilot projects for research in states that allow hemp growing.

In another step aimed at getting hemp seeds in the ground this spring,
Kentucky agriculture officials showed federal drug officials their
planned security measures to safeguard the seeds before being they are
sent to the fields.

Both developments had Kentucky's top agriculture official upbeat about
hemp's comeback.

"We've come a long way, and I believe we are on the verge of making
history," Comer said.

Kentucky's pilot hemp projects were put on hold after a 250-pound
shipment of imported seeds was seized by U.S. customs officials in
Louisville earlier this month. The state's Agriculture Department sued
the federal government over the seizure and the two sides are
scheduled to meet with a federal judge on Wednesday. Defendants in the
lawsuit include the Justice Department, the DEA, U.S. Customs and
Border Protection and Attorney General Eric Holder.

Meanwhile, state agriculture officials applied for the import

"We have jumped through every hoop that has been placed in front of
us," VonLuehrte said.

Federal drug officials inspected the state Agriculture Department's
facilities at Frankfort for storing hemp seeds to determine if they
are secure enough, she said. The seeds would be stored behind multiple
locked doors and in locked containers, she said.

Eight pilot projects are planned in Kentucky, with six universities
helping with research. One issue that was still unresolved last week
was whether private farmers could participate in the projects.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Tuesday in Denver that
he's working with the Justice Department to permit the importation of
hemp seeds for cultivation. Vilsack said his agency is trying to
resolve a conflict between what the farm bill permits and what federal
drug laws prohibit.

In Kentucky, the state's Agriculture Department would require farmers
to sign documents stating they would adhere to regulations overseeing
the hemp projects, VonLuehrte said.

She has said total production is expected to be less than 20 acres in
Kentucky, where hemp once thrived.

Beshear spokesman Terry Sebastian said Tuesday that the governor's
office was working with the Agriculture Department on the proposed
regulations. He said the governor planned to sign the regulations,
"assuming the final language complies with state law and the federal
court's prospective ruling."

The state's hemp regulations would enable the Agriculture Department
to compile a list of any individual involved in handling or producing
hemp. Those individuals would have to submit to a state criminal
history check and would have to provide hemp field locations.

Also, state agriculture officials would have to be notified ahead of
harvest to give them the option to test field samples to verify the
hemp's THC levels. The department would receive reports on average
yield and production costs per acre, along with other growing and
marketing information.

Associated Press Writer Nicholas Riccardi in Denver contributed to
this report.
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