About 250 pounds of the state's imported hemp seeds are being held at UPS in Louisville by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A battle over industrial hemp seeds has the state of Kentucky suing the Federal Government. About 250 pounds of the state's imported hemp seeds are being held at UPS in Louisville by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said his department had no choice but to file suit.
Comer said he had an agreement with the DEA at 4 p.m. Tuesday. He said after speaking with federal officials on a conference call, he was told the only thing Kentucky needed to do to get the seeds was apply for a import permit and the federal government would expedite it.
Comer said that all changed at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday when he got word the terms had changed.
"We received a letter from a different individual changing the terms of the agreement and saying we had to jump through all these new hurdles." Comer called the move a tactic to delay the seeds getting into the ground this planting season which is over June 1.
"I think this is a classic example of government overreach," he said.
Under the Farm Bill, AG departments in states like Kentucky that allow industrial hemp production can oversee hemp pilot projects at state universities.
"It's mind boggling," Comer said of the three week delay in getting the seeds. "What we're doing here is for research purposes and this is for the University of Kentucky."
Comer said of one federal official he spoke with, "He said everywhere the seed was going to go they were going to do background checks and I said 'no, this is going to the University of Kentucky' and he said, 'well we will have to run a background check against the University of Kentucky.'"
Comer was shocked, "I said 'are you kidding me? What are you talking about? This is crazy!'"
So crazy, Comer said the state had no choice but to file suit seeking the release of the imported seeds. The defendants include the U.S. Justice Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Comer said Saturday he was with Senator Rand Paul, who supports industrial hemp, and Senator Mitch McConnell, who wrote part of the Farm Bill legislation, and both knew the federal lawsuit was a possibility if the deal didn't happen. Paul's office did not return calls Wednesday night. We spoke with a spokesperson for the DEA Wednesday night who said the department has no comment at this time.
Does the power move have anything to do with Comer's possible run for Governor? He said "absolutely not," saying, he never wanted it to come to this. Comer said he wants to get it resolved quickly and he's asked for a hearing in federal court by the end of the week.
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