The Kentucky Agriculture Department announced Wednesday that it has filed a lawsuit seeking to have a court order the U.S. government to release imported hemp seeds that it is holding at Louisville International Airport.
Defendants in the suit, according to a copy of the complaint provided by the state Agriculture Department, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Louisville, are the U.S. Justice Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and Attorney General Eric Holder. The Justice Department did not immediately comment when contacted by The Associated Press.
The state Agriculture Department wants to distribute the seeds for use in pilot projects that would be Kentucky's first hemp crop in decades. The seeds have been detained by Customs at a UPS facility at the airport for several days at the DEA's request, Kentucky officials have said.
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said Wednesday that Kentucky officials thought they had an agreement with the DEA at 4 p.m. Tuesday to apply for a permit for all the universities conducting pilot hemp projects, which are allowed under the federal Farm Bill that became law this year. Then at 9 p.m., Kentucky officials got a letter from a different official suggesting a more elaborate process with different terms and conditions.
"That was never the congressional intent," Comer said, saying that the Farm Bill that allowed the pilot projects clearly states that it trumps other regulations that would limit hemp growth.
"We're doing exactly what the federal law says, and they continue to hold up our seed," Comer said, adding that the window to plant for this year's growing season closes June 1.
"I think they know that and that's why they keep stalling," he said, adding that the lawsuit was filed because Kentucky officials believe the situation wasn't going to improve.
He said the universities are ready, but "every time we talk to someone with DEA, it's a different person, they have (a) different interpretation of the law and it's just been a bureaucratic nightmare."
Comer said he has requested a hearing for Friday.
State agriculture officials are seeking a court order preventing federal officials from blocking the delivery of the seeds and a judgment saying that what the state Agriculture Department is trying to do is legal and that federal officials cannot add requirements beyond the Farm Bill.