Frankfort, KY: State officials received 286 pounds of hemp seeds late last week after federal anti-drug officials signed off on plans enabling the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to cultivate the crop as part of a series of statewide research projects.
The US Drug Enforcement Administration initially seized the shipment, which state officials had ordered from Italy, several weeks ago. State officials sued the agency in federal court prior to the DEA’s decision to release the seeds.
The Kentucky Department of Agriculture is sponsoring eight pilot studies evaluating the feasibility of hemp cultivation. Those studies are slated to begin imminently.
“This is a historic day,” Agriculture Commissioner James Comer told the Associated Press. “We’ve done something that no one thought we could do a year-and-a-half ago. We legalized industrial hemp and we’ve proven that it’s an agricultural crop and not a drug.”
More than a dozen states – including Hawaii, Indiana, Tennessee, and Utah – have enacted legislation redefining hemp as an agricultural commodity and allowing for state-sponsored research and/or cultivation of the crop. Kentucky enacted its law last year.
In February, members of Congress approved language (Section 7606) in the omnibus federal farm bill authorizing states to sponsor hemp research absent federal reclassification of the plant.
According to a 2013 white paper authored by the Congressional Research Service, a “commercial hemp industry in the United States could provide opportunities as an economically viable alternative crop for some US growers.”
Industrial hemp is a genetically different variety of cannabis possessing only minute quantities of THC, the primary mood-altering compound in the plant. Hemp fiber and other components of the plant may be utilized in the production of thousands of products, including paper, carpeting, home furnishing, construction and insulation materials, auto parts, animal bedding, body care products and nutritional supplements. Nonetheless, federal law makes no legal distinction between hemp and marijuana.
For more information, please contact Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director, at (202) 483-5500.