Customs Service reportedly refusing to release Ky. hemp seeds - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Customs Service reportedly refusing to release Ky. hemp seeds

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A dispute between Kentucky's Agriculture Department and two federal agencies is threatening the state's fledgling hemp industry.

It could all end up in court this week.

The Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner's office says it is ready to launch hemp pilot projects across the Commonwealth. But there's one big problem. Most of the hemp seed is being held in the U.S. Customs office in Louisville.

"We've dealt with the Justice Department, the DEA, the USDA, Customs and Border Patrol, the FDA," said the Agriculture Department's chief of staff, Holly Harris VonLuehrte. "I mean it's been outrageous the federal bureaucratic hoops that we've had to jump through."

And now this: Vonluehrte says the US Customs Service, on orders from the Drug Enforcement Administration, refuses to release 250 pounds of hemp seed shipped from overseas.

"The DEA has told us that they will not release the seed to us unless we procure a DEA permit which takes about six months to do. Obviously, we think that's ridiculous," said Vonluehrte.

Ridiculous, VonLuehrte says because the Farm Bill signed by President Obama authorizes states where hemp is legal, like Kentucky, to begin conducting pilot programs.

"We would expect that DEA, a law enforcement agency, would know the law," she said.

The office has received a 50-pound bag of hemp seed. It came from a source in California and did not go through Customs. It's destined for a project at Murray State.

"But there's just not enough. There's not enough for our pilot programs," said VonLuehrte.

VonLuehrte says the seed being held by Customs came from Italy and China, and must be planted by early June to produce a yield.

That's why the next step could be the federal courthouse.

"We're going to give DEA 24 more hours. We're hopeful that we can talk them into releasing the seed. If not, we'll likely go into federal court in Louisville on Wednesday," said VonLuehrte.

So far, no comment from either the Customs Service or the DEA.

So a dispute that has wound its way through the State Capitol, the Congress, even the White House, could wind up in court.

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