In prime planting season, Federal customs agents have intercepted a 250-pound batch of hemp seeds bound for Kentucky from Italy in one of the biggest cases of government interference concerning the legal crop to date.
Kentucky planters were planning on using this seed to plant one of the first crops of hemp in the state in decades. The state agricultural department is more than flummoxed. Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said, the delay being caused by the Feds is equal to “government overreach at its worst.” His chief of staff, Holly Harris VonLuehrte, says they will take the customs officials to court if they don’t hand over their seed soon.
“We changed state law, we changed federal law,” Comer said. “We did everything in a legally responsible way to bring the hemp industry back to Kentucky. And now the federal government is trying to flex its muscles and block this opportunity, violating its own law in the process.”
“We’ve done everything right up to this point,” he said. “We passed legislation in Frankfort. We passed legislation in Washington through the Farm Bill. We have research universities that want to research this. We have farmers grow it. We have processors that want to process it.”
Eight pilot projects are planned across Kentucky as part of an experiment to see if small-scale reintroduction of the crop will perform well.
“We had a conference call that I wish the world could have heard this morning with the DEA, and they’ve basically said the law is what they say the law is, not what Congress says the law is, and it’s appalling,” Comer said.
It is an important time to plant in order to determine the crop’s true potential. The plant is being looked at as a possible bio-fuel, and it has many other uses as well, from bio-plastics to exceptionally strong fibers and textiles.
Though Cannabis in its medical marijuana form arguably also treats cancer, stops tremors in MS patients, and boasts numerous other health benefits, industrial hemp just happens to be in huge competition with petrochemical companies, the textile and logging industries, and pharmaceutical companies. Big Ag should be miffed too, since hemp can be grown more easily than cotton with less water and less pesticide.
The state’s industrial hemp commission helped fund the pilot-projects and supplied money to purchase seeds, while private farmers and universities are supplying land and labor. A half-dozen universities in Kentucky are participating to research the crop. The goal is for farmers to find markets for their crops.
VonLuehrte reports that the shipment of hemp seeds is still in possession of U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials in Louisville. The seeds need to be planted no later than June to be viable.