Update: Agriculture Commissioner James Comer has told the Herald-Leader that the Drug Enforcement Administration will release the hemp seeds. Comer expects a permit to be issued for the release of the seeds by the end of the week, the Lexington newspaper reported.
Earlier: The Kentucky Department of Agriculture is preparing to go to federal court to force the release of 250 pounds of hemp seeds.
The Drug Enforcement Administration is holding the seeds, which have been imported for research projects at some Kentucky universities.
The seeds, shipped from Italy, are being held at a UPS warehouse in Louisville.
The DEA argues the seeds can’t be released without a special permit, regardless of language in the Farm Bill.
Holly VonLuerhte, chief of staff for Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, disagrees.
“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. 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,” she says.
VonLuerhte says time is of the essence.
“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,” she says.
Obtaining a DEA permit could take several months, making it impossible to plant the seeds this year.
VonLuerhte says the state is prepared to go to federal court in Louisville on Wednesday and ask a judge to force the DEA to release the seeds.