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Kentucky Ag Commissioner responds to DEA/FDA/USDA Statement of Principals on Industrial Hemp

Updated: Jan 16, 2019

On Monday, September 12th Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles responded to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regarding the recently published Statement of Principles.

In his letter, the Commissioner first thanked the USDA for their recent announcement to allow hemp pilot programs to participate in USDA research and other programs. He then emphasized the quick growth of Kentucky’s program saying, “We expect to see continued growth in the coming years as the Commonwealth’s hemp growers and processors experiment with different cultivating, processing, and marketing methods to learn as much as we can about the economic potential of this versatile crop.”

Kentucky’s hemp pilot program is now in its third year. This year, over two-thousand acres were planted across the state. In response to the recent Statement of Principles, Quarles expressed his concerns about the position the agencies took, and how they could affect the Kentucky program.

In the statement, only fiber and seed from industrial hemp are recognized, excluding the other applications of the plant. This season, more than half of the acreage under the KDA’s pilot program is not being raised for either fiber or seeds— but cannabidiol (CBD). This along with the statement's broadening definition of tetrohdrocannabidol could affect a great number of hemp growers and processors in the state and across the country.

Quarles also raised concerns about the statement's stance, prohibiting the transfer of hemp seeds and hemp plants across state borders, despite congress’s intent to allow them when they passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act. The Consolidated Appropriations act of 2016 prohibited any expenditure of federal funds to prevent the transport of hemp grown by a participant in an industrial hemp research pilot program-within or outside the states in which the hemp was grown or cultivated.

“He stood up for states rights, defended our ability to grow hemp for CBD production, and emphasized the fact that we need to ship across state lines to make the industry a success,” said Katie Moyer, owner of Kentucky processor Kentucky Hemp Works.

Commissioner Quarles is committed to fighting for the Kentucky hemp industry, and the national industry. Kentucky has been on the forefront of the reemerging industry even before the pilot programs inception. This letter will help set precedent for other states with, or those developing hemp pilot programs.

“I just read the KDA's letter to the USDA/DEA/FDA. Mr. Quarles did a fantastic job,” said Quinatzin De La Torre with Bluebird Botanicals, a Colorado-based hemp company planning to source domestic hemp extracts from Kentucky processors. “I'm confident with enough feedback the USDA will be releasing a revised "statement of principles" that is more friendly to our industry.”

We are fortunate to have representation like Commissioner Quarles, who has been outspoken on matters pertaining to this industry. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture works extensively with federal agencies and our congressional delegation to ensure Kentucky farmers and processors have the freedom to research the entire hemp plant.

Quarles stated, “I believe it is incumbent upon those of us who work in government to do everything possible within the limits of the law to support our growers and processors. Freedom, flexibility and latitude to try new methods and applications are essential to the success of any agricultural research pilot program. industrial hemp research programs are no different.”

The letter concludes with an urge to the agencies to reconsider the problematic positions, because their restrictions are narrower than those defined by congress. We hope that these agencies take these requests into consideration, for the future of this industry! We will continue to share updates going forward.

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