Ag. Dept. sues government over hemp seeds, says it could hurt state if not planted soon


by Alex Schuman

Posted on May 14, 2014 at 11:52 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 14 at 11:52 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11)-- The Kentucky Ag. Commissioner agreed with the DEA to get a permit, but now the DEA responded with a letter saying the state would have to a controlled substance permit

The letter also said the DEA needed to approve any institution ahead of time the Ag. Department wanted to let handle one of the pilot programs.  The Ag. Commissioner said the federal agency is overstepping its bounds and will now challenge those powers in court.   

Jim Higdon is the author of Cornfed Mafia and a member of Industrial Hemp Commission. 

"It would appear that this is sort of you know, the final battle," Higdon said.

The final battle he's referring to is this lawsuit filed by the Kentucky Department of Agritculture against the DEA, U.S. Customs, and Department of Justice and Attorney General Eric Holder.

The lawsuit demands the DEA allow hemp seeds transported from Italy to be let out of Louisville’s airport.

"What we have here are federal overreach,” Ag. Commissioner James Comer said. “We have federal bureacracies that are out of control."

Comer warns the state must plant to seeds before the end of month or they will miss planting season.

"They're clearly stalling to help us miss that window of opportunity," Comer said.

The lawsuit argues both Kentucky and federal law permit hemp to be grown as part of pilot programs.  Kentucky planned on overseeing eight different programs. 

The lawsuit claims not letting farmers plant the seeds could cause immediate and irreparable harm to the state  and make Kentucky less competitive than other states allowed to have pilot programs.

"Well it's in the DEA's interest to maintain the power it's always had and they find that power eroding by the changes both here in Kentucky and other states.  So this is their last gasp from trying to stop Kentucky from growing hemp this growing season," Higdon said.

The Ag. Commissioner wants to a federal district court hear the case by the end of the week so farmers will have time to start planting.

If the state does win this court case it will mean the DEA cannot force any state to get a controlled substance permit when importing industrial hemp.