DEA allows Kentucky farmers to sow hemp seeds

BY Dave Sloan  May 28, 2014 at 2:43 PM EDT

Photo by Erik Fendersson/Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Erik Fendersson/Wikimedia Commons

After a week-long legal battle with the Drug Enforcement Agency, Kentucky farmers and researchers will be able to sow the first imported hemp seeds.

Earlier this month,The DEA had refused to allow the import a 250-pound shipment of Italian-grown hemp seeds, which prompted a lawsuit in the state. The two sides came to an agreement this week and now Kentucky has now moved forward by opening up the second of seven state-sponsored planting projects.

The most recent farm bill, which was passed in early February, allows states to open up pilot projects that test whether hemp is viable raw materials crop that can make a profit.

Hemp and marijuana come from the same plant; the hemp comprises the stalks, stems and sterilized seeds and marijuana is made up or the leaves. While marijuana is smoked by humans, industrial hemp can be used in textiles, fuels, foods, papers, body care products, detergents, plastics and building materials.

Colorado Department of Agriculture has already granted permission to more than 100 growers to plant hemp seeds on a small scale. Hemp advocates have promoted the benefits of expanding planting projects. Eric Steenstra, an executive director of Vote Hemp told NPR, “There’s no question in my mind that this could be a multibillion-dollar crop where we could see millions of acres, eventually.”

Historically, Hemp was a popular crop prior to the 20th century. It was originally banned in the 1930s by the federal government. Researchers hope that through these new state-run programs, the plant will see a revival in the U.S. agriculture industry.