Agriculture
5:06 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

Comer is Confident Heading Into Friday Hearing Over Hemp Lawsuit

James Comer is suing the federal government after agents confiscated hemp seeds designated for a University of Kentucky-led pilot project.
Credit Kentucky Dept. of Agriculture

Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner says he’s looking forward to a court hearing Friday over his department’s lawsuit against the federal government.

James Comer this week sued three government agencies—the U.S. Justice Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection--as well as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, over a 250 pound shipment of hemp seeds that is being held by federal customs officials in Louisville.

Language in the latest federal Farm Bill allows certain states that have adopted a regulatory framework to plant hemp for the first time in decades, and Kentucky passed a law allowing pilot hemp planting projects run by state-funded universities.

But Comer says federal agents in Louisville have continued to come up with reasons why the latest hemp shipment must be held. The Commissioner says a hearing is set for 1 p.m. eastern time Friday before a federal judge in Louisville.

“We believe that it’s a good sign, that we’re going to be in front of a federal judge this soon after filing a motion," the Monroe County native told WKU Public Radio. "So, hopefully we can get the seeds, because these seeds are going to the University of Kentucky. It’s not like these seeds are going to some shady, upstart business somewhere.”

The hemp shipment being held by the federal government originated in Italy, and is intended for a pilot project overseen by U.K.

Comer says all of the state’s legal fees connected to the lawsuit are being paid by private money given to a fund overseen by the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission. The two biggest donors to that fund are David Bronner, the CEO of a company that sells hemp soap, and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s political action committee.

Federal officials have so far not commented on why the hemp shipment is being held.