Kentucky will battle the federal government over imported industrial hemp seeds.
The state’s agriculture department has filed a lawsuit against the federal government, seeking the release of Italian hemp seeds that have been held by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The 250-pound bag of hemp seeds arrived in Louisville last week, however customs officials refused to release them to the department. The seeds are part of Kentucky’s pilot program for cultivating industrial hemp.
The lawsuit names the Justice Department, the DEA, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Attorney General Eric Holder as defendants. A hearing on the suit will be held Friday.
Kentucky officials argue that the seeds need to be planted during the spring season, and each day they are delayed jeopardizes their yield.
Under the state’s new program, a handful of private farmers are cultivating the hemp plants so they can be researched by local universities. The program aims to study the uses of hemp in everything from clothing and fuel to building materials.
The lawsuit could set a precedent for how other states help their respective hemp pilot programs, which were made possible with the passage of the Farm Bill. Colorado, for example, has approved more than 100 private hemp-growing operations. These farmers could greatly benefit if other states are willing to file lawsuits on their behalf.