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2014 | Kentucky Department of Agriculture sues DEA over hemp seeds

Updated: Jan 19, 2019

Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) filed a lawsuit on Wednesday, May 14, 2014 seeking an injunction and declaratory relief to stop the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) unlawful seizure of imported industrial hemp seed, and future DEA attempts to prevent hemp cultivation and research pilot programs in Kentucky.

On Tuesday, Comer had negotiated with the DEA to clear the way for the state to get the hemp seeds with an expedited import permit. But after receiving the DEA's letter about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday evening, reading the particulars and consulting legal authorities, Comer reconsidered.

The DEA would require the state to get a "controlled substances" import permit, and that would set a precedent for other states.

The KDA filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, and asked the court for an emergency hearing to immediately force the DEA to cease interference with the six Kentucky hemp research projects, which are authorized by Sec. 7606 of the Farm Bill that was signed into law on February 7, 2014 by President Obama.

“The cultivation of industrial hemp… is lawful,” the motion read. “The public interest is served by allowing the KDA and Kentucky research universities to investigate the use of industrial hemp as a cash crop in Kentucky. The public interest is not served by allowing unaccountable federal agencies to exercise arbitrary and capricious powers, not rationally related to carrying out any legitimate governmental purpose.”

Prior to filing the suit, the KDA had been in good faith dialog with the DEA to negotiate the release of a shipment of 250 lbs. of certified industrial hemp seed imported from Italy, which was seized by the federal agency and held by U.S. Customs in Louisville.

After the DEA offered to release the Italian seeds to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA), provided the state agency applied to register as an importer of controlled substances. But a DEA official, Joseph Rannazzisi, declared the Farm Bill did not authorize any activity by private growers and suggested the state provide the names of the institutions of higher education to which it planned to distribute seeds.

The industrial hemp seed was destined for various pilot programs all licensed by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and coordinated in conjunction with Kentucky state academic institutions, in order to begin research and development projects to optimize the agricultural, economic and manufacturing potential of the imminent hemp industry in Kentucky.

“It’s ridiculous, if hemp is not being grown in the United States, how are we going to grow it without seeds?” Rep. Thomas Massie, (R-KY) told U.S. News. “You can buy a granola bar – in whichever city you’re in – with hemp seeds on it. Everything made of hemp is legal to bring into this country.”



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