The Drug Enforcement Administration is under mounting pressure to release the 250 pounds of hemp seed intended for pilot projects in the state.
Kentucky’s senior senator stepped into the fray Thursday.
In a statement, Sen. Mitch McConnell said it’s an “outrage that the DEA is using finite taxpayer dollars to impound legal industrial hemp seeds.”
The holdup is fast becoming a rallying point - particularly for Republican supporters of hemp, who have been quick to label the incident an example of federal government overreach. Wednesday, agriculture commissioner James Comer announced the state is suing.
"It's about more than just industrial hemp. The hemp has come to symbolize everything that's wrong with the government and we're going to stand up for the small businesses and for the taxpayers and the family farmers and say no, you're going to abide by the law," he says.
The agriculture department imported the seeds from Italy for university research projects, but the DEA is demanding that Kentucky acquire additional permits.
The Department of Justice has yet to respond to WUKY’s request for comment, but in a Tuesday letter to the agriculture department obtained by the Huffington Post, DEA officials insist there is confusion as a result of this year’s farm bill.
Comer says the language in the bill, drafted with the help of Sen. McConnell, is clear and the hemp projects should be allowed to move forward.
Update 5:56 PM: A hearing has been scheduled for 1 PM Friday.