KY leaders write DEA a letter

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By Brad Bowman


Kentucky farmers may soon know whether there is any backlash from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency about the state making hay for hemp.

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, Brian Furnish, chairman of the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and U.S. Representatives Thomas Massie and John Yarmuth put their signatures on a letter addressed to the U.S. Department of Justice and Michele Leonhart, administrator of the DEA.

The delegation asked for clarification on the DEA’s position if it would intervene in Kentucky’s intended move toward hemp production. By the guidance of Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission, the letter sent Nov. 25 expressed Kentucky’s desire to move forward with production under the guidelines set forth by the commission and the judicial support of State Senate Bill 50, which legalized hemp production in Kentucky. The letter stated that, “It is our hope that Kentucky will be a model for the nation in supervising the growth, harvesting and manufacturing of industrial hemp — a sustainable, environmentally-friendly crop that can be used in the industries ranging from automobile manufacturing to horse farming.”

The letter, while clearly stating Kentucky’s desire to move forward, spoke of working in the spirit of collaboration with the DEA, which would strengthen the state’s support of growers and manufacturers.

“We seek to work with the DEA in this process and send the message to farmers, potential processors and manufacturers that Kentucky has pursued this endeavor in a thoughtful and responsible manner,” the letter stated. “This collaborative effort would dispel any myths or misperceptions regarding industrial hemp and would be an asset in developing and improving markets in Kentucky…We look forward to working together in removing government obstacles to this job-creating agricultural commodity.”

Reiterating a document sent out from the Department of Justice in regards to setting priorities with federal prosecution in states where marijuana has been legalized for medicinal and recreational use, the letter emphasized that Colorado will seek hemp licenses by 2014 and all states should be treated equally.

“The federal government has said it will respect state laws regarding marijuana cultivation and sales, so we feel that hemp should be treated the same way,” Commissioner Comer said in a press release. “Farmers and processors need to be assured that they won’t be harassed by the DEA if they grow and process hemp, and that’s the purpose of this letter.”

U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie stated he would not only stand by the letter, but also House of Representatives Bill 525, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013.

“In light of the recent U.S. Department of Justice guidance and passage of Senate Bill 50 in the Kentucky legislature, I am proud to stand with Commissioner Comer, Senator Paul, and Congressman Yarmuth to lead Kentucky’s charge to once again allow farmers to grow industrial hemp,” Rep. Massie said. “To further support Commissioner Comer’s efforts to provide more jobs and opportunities for Kentucky’s farmers, manufacturers, and consumers, I will also continue to seek passage of HR 525, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, which now has 49 cosponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives.”