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Column: DEA’s Actions with Industrial Hemp in Kentucky Is Arbitrary

By Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer
Cincinnati.com

On the afternoon of May 14, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture filed suit against the federal government. Enough is enough.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is illegally preventing shipment of hemp seeds to Kentucky in clear violation of federal law. For weeks, we have dealt with unnecessary government bureaucracy, federal officials unwilling to discuss the law or answer questions, and delay … after delay … after delay.To understand what led to legal action, you have to know the journey. From the beginning, Kentucky has taken a legally responsible pathway to reintroducing industrial hemp to our agricultural economy. We did everything “by the book” and in record time. We revived the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission, pulled together an unprecedented bipartisan coalition, passed a landmark state law legalizing hemp production in Kentucky, and traveled to Washington and worked with our congressional delegation to change federal law.

The Agricultural Act of 2014, signed into law by the president of the United States in February, authorizes states where hemp production is legal to carry out research pilot programs “notwithstanding any other federal law.”

A couple of weeks ago, a 250-pound shipment of hemp seeds meant for legal Kentucky hemp pilot programs was imported from Italy to Chicago. The shipment cleared customs in Chicago, but then, in an arbitrary and capricious about-face, the DEA seized the seeds when they arrived in Louisville. We negotiated for their release for days, and we thought we had the matter resolved. But then, DEA attached conditions to the release of the seed requiring the department to obtain a Schedule 1 controlled substances research registration and prohibiting private farmers with sites duly certified by and registered with the department from participating in the pilot programs.

When we confronted the DEA about this, the response was, “Make a counter-offer.”


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