Category Archives: Hemp

Hemp

Hemp Industries Association Sues DEA For Ignoring 9th Circuit Decision in HIA v. DEA (& Please sign this petition for Hemp)

Hemp Industries Association Sues DEA

For Ignoring 9th Circuit Decision in HIA v. DEA

In 2001, the DEA issued new rules to ban hemp foods despite the fact that Congress had exempted them in the Controlled Substances Act. The HIA, Dr. Bronner’s, Nutiva and other plaintiffs went to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to challenge the illogical rules and won a victory. This ruling prohibited DEA from treating legal hemp products as controlled substances and helped the burgeoning hemp foods market to take off. 

Despite this victory and the clear order from the court prohibiting DEA from enforcing the rules, DEA has continued to put out incorrect and confusing information advising the media and state officials that hemp foods are still illegal if they are intended for human consumption! 

Today the HIA filed a motion with the court to ask that DEA be found in contempt for refusing the follow the courts order. You can read the filing here.

 

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Let American Farmers Grow Hemp Once Again to Create Jobs and Rebuild the Rural Economy – Sign This Petition

Created by E.S. on January 20, 2017 – Sign This Petition

Industrial hemp was once a dominant crop on the American landscape. This hardy and renewable resource was refined for various industrial applications, including paper, textiles, and cordage. Unfortunately hemp was conflated with marijuana but hemp can't be used as a drug.

Over time, the use of industrial hemp has evolved into an even greater variety of products, including health foods, body care, clothing, auto parts, construction materials, biofuels, plastic composites and more.

Farmers in Europe, Canada and China all grow hemp and over $600 million in imported hemp products were sold in the USA in 2016. Congress has 2 bipartisan bills which would bring back hemp farming and create rural jobs. We request that President Trump work with Congress to pass hemp legislation in 2017 – Sign This PetitionSign This Petition

Kentucky approves 12,800 acres for hemp planting in 2017, tripling the previous year’s figures

Growers must pass background check

WCPO Staff

6:46 AM, Jan 6, 2017

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) has approved 209 applications from growers who have been approved to cultivate up to 12,800 acres of industrial hemp for research purposes in 2017, nearly tripling the number of acres that were approved for 2016. More than 525,000 square feet of greenhouse space were approved for indoor growers in 2017.

“By nearly tripling hemp acreage in 2017 and attracting more processors to the state, we are significantly growing opportunities for Kentucky farmers,” said Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, in a news release. “Our strategy is to use KDA’s research pilot program to encourage the industrial hemp industry to expand and prosper in Kentucky. Although it is not clear when Congress might act to remove industrial hemp from the list of controlled substances, my strategic objective is to position the commonwealth’s growers and processors to ultimately prevail as national leaders in industrial hemp production.”

The KDA received a total of 252 applications – 234 grower applications and 18 processor/handler applications. Applicants were asked to identify which harvestable component of the plant would be the focus of their research (floral material, grain, or fiber); some applicants selected more than one component.

In addition to grower applications, KDA approved 11 new applications from processors (in addition to 29 previously approved multi-year processor applications that were not required to reapply). Five universities will also carry out additional research projects in 2017. KDA officials cited the recent decline in commodity prices as one factor that appears to be generating increased interest among Kentucky’s farmers in industrial hemp and other alternative crops.

In 2016, 137 growers were approved to plant up to 4,500 acres. Program participants planted more than 2,350 acres of hemp in 2016, up from 922 acres in 2015 and 33 acres in 2014.

To strengthen KDA’s partnership with state and local law enforcement officers, KDA will provide GPS coordinates of approved industrial hemp planting sites to law enforcement agencies before any hemp is planted. GPS coordinates were required to be submitted on the application. Participants also must pass background checks and consent to allow program staff and law enforcement officers to inspect any premises where hemp or hemp products are being grown, handled, stored or processed.

“We have made collaboration and communication with the law enforcement community a top priority for KDA’s management of this research pilot program,” Quarles said.

Staff with the KDA’s industrial hemp research pilot program evaluated the applications and considered whether returning applicants had complied with instructions from KDA, Kentucky State Police and local law enforcement. To promote transparency and ensure a fair playing field, KDA relied on objective criteria, outlined in the 2017 Policy Guide, to evaluate applications.

The KDA operates its program under the authority of a provision of the 2014 federal farm bill, 7 U.S.C. § 5940, that permits industrial hemp pilot programs in states where hemp production is permitted by state law. For more information and to view the 2017 Policy Guide, please visit the website here.

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A Kentucky-based hemp seed grower is the first company to have its seeds approved and officially certified by the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

 

 

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Blair Miller

DENVER – A Kentucky-based hemp seed grower is the first company to have its seeds approved and officially certified by the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

Lexington, Kentucky-based Schiavi Seeds LLC had three separate seed varieties certified as CDA Approved Certified Seeds under the new program, which aims to promote hemp agriculture in the state.

CDA has worked with CSGA and Colorado State University over the past several months to breed plants that produce seeds under the 0.3 percent THC content threshold to qualify as hemp and not psychoactive marijuana.

Varying seed types were grown and tested in trials in different parts of the state in order to find ideal conditions for hemp cultivation.

Colorado law requires industrial hemp seeds to contain less than 0.3 percent THC. Three trial seeds from Schiavi Seeds – Eletta Campana, Fibranova and Helena – passed trial tests and were accepted by the state Seed Growers Association’s review board.

CDA says seeds submitted by Fort Collins-based New West Genetics have also passed the THC trial, but still have to be accepted by the review board before they can also be labeled as a CDA Approved Certified Seed.

Congress approved hemp production in 2014, but a state certification like Colorado’s is necessary to raise the crop.

Colorado farmers will be able to start buying and growing the seeds next year.

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First new hemp strain bred for US farmers

By: Chris Conrad

Retail Hemp field crop

A new industrial hemp cultivar has passed the THC hemp trials managed by the Colorado Department of Agriculture, the first hemp seed variety bred for the US to pass a Department of Agriculture hemp trial in any state.

Thomas Jefferson was a jealous hempseed breeder who allegedly brought Chinese seeds in from France in the 1790s to mix with the European strains. Later the US Department of Agriculture adopted an aggressive program to breed plants that were drought resistant and climate or soil specific for different parts of the United States and came up with some of the best hemp strains in the world. That all came to an end with the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, when hemp farming was essentially banned. The national seed banks died out when the federal Drug Enforcement Agency took control in the 1970s and destroyed them in the name of the Drug War.

Act of Congress opened the way for new hemp seedlines

In February 2015, Congress passed the hemp amendment to the Farm bill and opened new avenues for cannabis hemp. Two years later, Rely™ by New West Genetics has become the first modern hemp variety bred for the U.S. to pass Colorado Department of Agriculture hemp trials. The plants have a stable THC content below 0.1 percent, compared with the federal standard of 0.3 percent or less.

“This is a landmark victory for New West Genetics, as well as hemp production in the United States overall,” said Wendy Mosher, CEO for New West Genetics. “The use of regionally bred hemp seed for production is imperative for the US hemp industry to succeed, and we hope that the results for Rely™ act as a catalyst for other U.S. hemp product makers to recognize the benefit of regionally bred varieties – better yield, disease resistance, sustainability, etc. and demand those be used for their products.”

PLEASE CONTINUE READING…

Kentucky Congressmen Seek Clarification on Federal Hemp Rules

By Matt Markgraf Oct 27, 2016

Three members of Kentucky’s U.S. Congressional delegation joined 16 other members of Congress in a letter Wednesday seeking clarification from federal agencies regarding industrial hemp guidelines.

Senator Rand Paul and Representatives Thomas Massie and John Yarmuth signed a letter to The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Drug Enforcement Administration and Food and Drug Administration looking to revise the ‘Statement of Principles’ issued in August.

The Congressmen say there is confusion over pilot programs approved in the 2014 Farm Bill allowing state ag departments and universities, including Murray State, to grow the plant for research. Guidance also could have a limiting effect on sales and transportation, the letter argues. Federal law prohibits farmers growing for commercial profit, but retail sales of products made with hemp are legal.

Kentucky’s Ag Commissioner Ryan Quarles sent a letter to the USDA last month objecting to the rules, saying they “could hinder industrial hemp’s economic potential.”

Read the letter sent Wednesday

 

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KY: Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program now taking applications for 2017

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New measures set to enable sustained growth of the program

FRANKFORT (October 11, 2016) Kentuckians interested in participating in the industrial hemp research pilot program in 2017 are invited to submit an application with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.

“The pilot research program will continue to build on the successes of the previous administration by developing research data on industrial hemp production, processing, manufacturing, and marketing for Kentucky growers,” Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said. KDA’s objective is to expand and strengthen Kentucky’s research pilot program, so that if the federal government chooses to remove industrial hemp from the list of controlled substances, Kentucky’s growers and farmers will be positioned to thrive, prosper and ultimately prevail as national leaders in industrial hemp production.”

The KDA operates its program under the authority of a provision of the 2014 federal farm bill, 7 U.S.C. § 5940 that permits industrial hemp pilot programs in states where hemp production is permitted by state law. Participants planted more than 2,350 acres of hemp in 2016 compared with 922 acres in 2015 and 33 acres in 2014, the first year of the program.

Applicants should be aware of important new measures for the 2017 research program, including the following:

· To strengthen the department’s partnership with state and local law enforcement officers, KDA will provide GPS coordinates of approved industrial hemp planting sites to law enforcement agencies before any hemp is planted. GPS coordinates must be submitted on the application. Applicants must consent to allow program staff and law enforcement officers to inspect any premises where hemp or hemp products are being grown, handled, stored, or processed.

· To promote transparency and ensure a fair playing field, KDA will rely on objective criteria, outlined in the newly released 2017 Policy Guide, to evaluate applications. An applicant’s criminal background check must indicate no drug-related misdemeanor convictions, and no felony convictions of any kind, in the past 10 years. Staff with the KDA’s industrial hemp pilot project program will consider whether applicants have complied with instructions from the department, Kentucky State Police, and local law enforcement.

· As the research program continues to grow, KDA’s hemp staff needs additional resources and manpower to administer this tremendously popular program. The addition of participant fees will enable KDA Hemp Staff to handle an increasing workload without needing additional taxpayer dollars from the General Assembly. Program applicants will be required to submit a nonrefundable application fee of $50 with their applications. Successful applicants will be required to pay additional program fees.

Grower applications must be postmarked or received by the KDA marketing office no later than November 14, 2016 at 4:30 p.m. EST. Processor or handler applicants are encouraged to submit their applications by November 14, 2016 at 4:30 p.m. EST.

For more information, including the 2017 Policy Guide and a downloadable application, go to kyagr.com/hemp.

CONTINUE TO KENTUCKY DEPARTMENT OF AGRIGULTURE

Kentucky Should Not Wait For Federal Permission on Industrial Hemp

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There are right ways to fight the unconstitutional federal prohibition on industrial hemp. There are also wrong ways to do it. Unfortunately, Kentucky is doing it the wrong way. Rather than act without unnecessary federal “permission,” the agriculture commissioner is pleading with the feds to “reconsider” its rules for industrial hemp.

The feds recently put out a report called the Statement of Principles on Industrial Hemp which outlines how federal laws impact hemp production for research purposes. However, the Kentucky agriculture commissioner says it is not certain how the rules apply to hemp oil (CBD oil) production research, which makes up over half of the state’s hemp programs.

“There are some areas(of the report) that may be problematic, including the definition of what the actual definition of what industrial hemp is,” said Quarles. He added that he hopes “those in Washington realize that the entire plant should be researched.”

While industrial hemp and recreational marijuana are both prohibited under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, they are different strains of the same plant. Industrial hemp has practically no trace of THC, the chemical in found in marijuana that makes it potent. While it is not illegal to grow industrial hemp, farmers must obtain a permit from the DEA, a virtually impossible feat. Up until a couple of years ago, the feds effectively maintained complete prohibition of industrial hemp production.

At one time, Kentucky ranked as the no. 1 hemp producing state in the country, and the commonwealth currently has a strong grassroots network of hemp advocates. But when the legislature took up the issue in 2013, it only authorized hemp production if and when the feds allowed it.

Early in 2014, President Barack Obama opened the door when he signed a new farm bill into law, which included a provision allowing a handful of states to begin limited research programs growing hemp. The “hemp amendment”

…allows State Agriculture Departments, colleges and universities to grow hemp, defined as the non-drug oil-seed and fiber varieties of Cannabis, for academic or agricultural research purposes, but it applies only to states where industrial hemp farming is already legal under state law.

With the federal government granting its limited permission, the state of Kentucky launched a hemp pilot program meeting the federal guidelines in 2014. Now, state agriculture officials find themselves in a position where they must beg the federal government to change its rules in order to even run its limited research program.

Meanwhile, other states including Colorado, Vermont, Oregon, South Carolina, Connecticut, Maine and North Dakota aren’t waiting around for permission. They have taken steps to ramp up industrial hemp production on their own, simply ignoring federal prohibition and legalizing industrial hemp within their state borders.

While prospective hemp growers still have to take federal law into consideration, by eliminating the state requirement for federal permission, state hemp legalization clears away a major obstacle to widespread commercial hemp farming within the borders of the state.

And it’s working. For instance, in Colorado the amount of acreage used to grow industrial hemp is poised to double this year.

The growing hemp industry in Colorado and other states acting independent of federal law shows that the fed’s ban does not work without state cooperation.

Kentucky should cease pleading for permission where none is required and takes steps to nullify the federal ban on industrial hemp by simply creating a framework allowing farmers to cultivate and process hemp for both commercial and research purposes.

CONTINUE READING….

 

RELATED:

Two Approaches to Hemp Demonstrate Futility of Asking for Federal Permission

New U.S. Agriculture policy could halt some Kentucky hemp growth

 

Image result for green remedy cbd

 

By Charles Mason, Bowling Green Daily News,

Possibly half of Kentucky’s nascent industrial hemp industry could be harmed by a policy suggestion offered by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack and other federal officials.

The policy suggestion is part of a larger discussion over the future of industrial hemp in America, which exists in legal limbo. States with legislation in place can allow it be grown under research conditions, but cannabis is still outlawed as a controlled substance.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said Thursday that Kentucky is the biggest industrial hemp state in the United States.

“We want Kentucky to be the epicenter for industrial hemp,” Quarles said during a telephone interview.

This set of paragraphs in a federal publication has created some concerns about the future viability of Kentucky’s program.

“The term ‘industrial hemp’ includes the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part or derivative of such plant, including seeds of such plant, whether growing or not, that is used exclusively for industrial purposes (fiber and seed) with a tetrahydrocannabinols concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis,” according to the “Statement of Principles on Industrial Hemp” released Aug. 12 in the Federal Register.

Under the parameters, the feds would redefine industrial hemp to include only “historically proven” applications – fiber and seed – excluding other potential applications. The statement from the feds – which is not legally binding – goes on to say that ‘‘tetrahydrocannabinols includes all isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers of tetrahydrocannabinols.”

The Federal Register statement also noted, “… 2014 legalized the growing and cultivating of industrial hemp for research purposes in states where such growth and cultivation is legal under state law, notwithstanding existing federal statutes that would otherwise criminalize such conduct.”

The language in the Federal Register also has a Louisville businessman concerned.

Chad Wilson of Bowling Green, who has a business in Louisville, admits it is early in the process of these national discussions. He sees the Kentucky family farmer and his or her crop options being endangered by the federal policy suggestion.

Wilson is the marketing director for Green Remedy of Louisville, which distributes natural remedies derived from non-industrial hemp applications.

“We created this Kentucky company to help the Kentucky farmer,” Wilson said Thursday during a telephone interview. “We have a right to a better quality of life.”

Kentucky permits 167 research plots for industrial hemp by growers not affiliated with an educational institution and the about 2,200 acres planted is expected to grow in the coming years. Kentucky’s research pilot program is in its third growing season. The program exists because the current Farm Bill offers an exemption to allow the research plots, Quarles said.

“We are trying to create stability for the investors. They are concerned about this policy paper,” Quarles said of the state’s industrial hemp program.

Quarles recently wrote Vilsack and other federal officials to express concerns about the federal government’s approach to narrow Congress’ definition of industrial hemp.

That approach excludes cannabidiol (CBD), which advocates claim has health benefits. Green Remedy’s products derive from CBD.

Quarles said more than half of the industrial hemp acreage cultivated this year by pilot program participants in Kentucky is being used to harvest CBD.

“Freedom, flexibility and latitude to try new methods and applications are essential to the success of any agricultural research pilot program. Industrial hemp research pilot programs are now different,” Quarles wrote Vilsack; Deputy Assistant Administrator Louis Milione of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency; and Associate Commissioner Leslie Kux of the federal Food and Drug Administration on Sept. 12.

The Federal Register statement noted that the USDA, DEA and FDA were still sorting out legalities of permitted industrial hemp programs authorized by states.

The statement wasn’t all potential bad news for Kentucky.

Quarles applauded the decision to allow hemp growers and processors to be eligible for federal loans, grants and other programs.

However, he took exception with the narrowed definition that would shut out non-industrial hemp product applications such as use of hemp parts as food ingredients, as materials for artistic use; or as ingredients for pharmaceutical, nutraceutical or other health-related purposes.

Quarles told the federal administrator that CBD shows “great promise” as an economically viable agricultural product.

“Kentucky’s General Assembly is one of many state legislatures that has expressed their support for continuing and expanding CBD applications and research,” Quarles wrote.

The CBD portion of the plant is the backbone of Wilson’s three-year-old company. Wilson said he used to look at cannabis in the narrow view of marijuana and people getting high, but through personal education about industrial hemp and its non-industrial medicinal applications, “they call me the hemp preacher now,” he said Thursday in a telephone interview.

Green Remedy has less than five employees and Wilson declines to cite specifically what his business is worth except to say that he’s made a “substantial investment” and contracted growers to provide the CBD his business uses.

“This is an opportunity for the middle class to step up and start a business,” Wilson said. “You don’t do something like this and then pull the rug out.”

Wilson and Quarles are both concerned that foreign hemp seed might transcend domestic efforts.

The Statement of Principles calls for prohibiting transfers of hemp seeds and plants across state lines, despite Congress’ “clear intent” to allow such interstate transfers, Quarles noted in the letter.

“I cannot understand why the importation rules should be more restrictive for interstate transfers than for international transfers,” Quarles wrote.

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RELATED:

Because CBDs are being investigated by drug companies, the FDA has granted CBDs status as being “investigated as a new drug.”

Denied hemp growers claim they were unfairly excluded

  • Jackson French
  • Jul 15, 2016

    Lincoln Day Dinner

     

    AAcross Kentucky, people who have been denied permission to grow hemp have accused former Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer of refusing applications for political reasons – an allegation Comer has rejected.

    David Barhorst, owner of Kentucky Hemp Ventures Inc., who said he was denied a memorandum of understanding to grow hemp, claims the hemp industry in Kentucky is actually under the control of behind-the-scenes individuals.

    Kentucky is in violation of national law and its own state law,” he said. “In essence, the entire hemp industry is illegal in Kentucky.”

    Barhorst believes the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Hemp Review Committee actually decides who gets the MOUs to grow hemp. So Barhorst and other members of Kentucky Hemp Growers Cooperative Association Inc., which provides help to partner-members seeking to grow hemp, tried to find out who was on the committee. Their attempts – which included filing open records requests that asked, among other things, for the names of the review committee’s members and minutes from their meetings – yielded no results, he said.

    “We have inquired, asked, prodded for months to find out who’s on it,” Barhorst said.

    The Daily News filed an open records request with the KDA, seeking minutes from Hemp Review Committee meetings and a list of the group’s members. Clint Quarles, an attorney for KDA, responded via email, stating that no such records exist.    

    Nicole Liberto, KDA’s deputy general counsel, said decisions about who gets MOUs for growing hemp rests with KDA. The Hemp Review Committee helps KDA review applications for MOUs but is not officially chartered, she said.

    “It’s not any kind of established committee,” she said.

    Neither Liberto nor Ryan Quarles, the current commissioner of agriculture, would provide the names of any Hemp Review Committee members.

    According to the Industrial Hemp Program’s website, the Hemp Review Committee evaluates MOU applications and will “select certain projects for approval” but is not involved in follow-up inquiries. This group is not mentioned in Senate Bill 50, the state law that establishes state oversight of the industrial hemp program. Federally, Kentucky’s industrial hemp program operates under the the Agricultural Act of 2014 – also known as the Farm Bill, which allowed states to implement hemp research programs.

    According to KDA’s website, SB 50’s goal is “to help Kentucky move to the forefront of industrial hemp production and commercialization of hemp products.” SB 50 says hemp licenses come from KDA, but doesn’t indicate that any group within the department is responsible for approving or denying licenses.

    Meanwhile, Barhorst believes Comer disbanded the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission, a group tasked with establishing a program to license Kentucky hemp growers and oversee a five-year hemp research program, in order for another group – the privately held and similarly named Kentucky Hemp Industry Council – to take control outside the view of the spotlight. The Industrial Hemp Commission has not published meeting records since May 2014, he said.

    “What they did was a bait and switch,” Barhorst said.

    According to a complaint the Kentucky Hemp Growers Cooperative Association filed July 1 with Kathryn Gabhart, executive director of Kentucky’s Executive Branch Ethics Commission, the Kentucky Hemp Industry Council was founded in April 2014, about a month before the Industrial Hemp Commission appears to have stopped meeting. In addition, Brian Furnish, who was a member of the Industrial Hemp Commission, was named president of the Hemp Industry Council, the complaint said.

    “This is the group we think is behind everything,” Barhorst said.

    According to Comer, a Tompkinsville Republican who served as agriculture commissioner from 2012 to January and is currently running for the 1st Congressional District seat in the U.S. House, the Industrial Hemp Commission was disbanded because its main goal was educating the public on hemp while growing the crop was still illegal, as well as establishing a program to license hemp growers. Therefore, its work was complete, he said.

    “Once the Farm Bill passed, it pretty much eliminated the need for a hemp commission,” he said. “It’s an obsolete commission.”

    Ryan Quarles, when asked if KDA is affiliated with the newer Hemp Industry Council, said: “We are evaluating the hemp program as a whole and coming up with a series of recommendations for the 2017 crop year, which would include organizations and those who have been interested in the reintroduction of the crop for years.” He would not comment directly on the council or its involvement in the state’s hemp industry.

    Jonathan Miller, a member of the Industrial Hemp Commission who now serves as legal counsel for the Hemp Industry Council, confirmed that Furnish is the council’s president as well as an Industrial Hemp Commission member. Miller, an attorney with Frost Brown Todd in Lexington, declined to name any of the council’s other members.

    When active, the Industrial Hemp Commission’s meetings mainly concerned the “direction of the industry,” Miller said, adding that the responsibility of steering the industry now belongs to KDA. The Hemp Industry Council is a lobbying group whose main focus has been urging Congress to exclude industrial hemp from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s drug schedule, he said.

    According to the Kentucky Secretary of State website, Kentucky Hemp Industry Council Inc. is registered as a nonprofit organization with an office at 250 W. Main St. in Lexington – the same address as a Frost Brown Todd office. The site lists Furnish as president, Dan Caudill as vice president, Steve Bevan as secretary and Josh Hendrix as treasurer. 

    Furnish did not return phone messages seeking comment.

    Bevan, chief operating officer of GenCanna Global, a Winchester-based company originally from Canada that’s partnered with six local farms to grow hemp, according to Newsweek, directed all questions about the council to Miller. Hendrix, who works with Las Vegas-based pharmaceutical company CV Sciences, said the council has no connection to the Industrial Hemp Commission.

    Caudill, co-owner of Louisville’s Caudill Seed, did not return messages seeking comment. But Carl Gering, the company’s safety and security director, reached out to the Daily News, saying Comer invited Caudill to be part of the Hemp Industry Council. Gering said the council has been involved with promoting the industry and making sure people know the difference between industrial hemp and recreational marijuana.  

    The group has no involvement with MOUs, Gering said.

    Hemp in Kentucky

    In 2011, when Comer was running for agriculture commissioner, his campaign was built partly on reviving industrial hemp, which was once widely grown in Kentucky, he said. Liberals and conservatives alike met this idea with enthusiasm, he said. 

    During his campaign, Comer educated the public on hemp, making sure people knew the difference between hemp and marijuana. Hemp’s genetic relationship to marijuana has been largely responsible for the illegality of hemp, Comer said. 

    Cannabis – including both hemp and marijuana – is classified as a Schedule I drug, according to a DEA website. Schedule I also includes heroin, ecstasy and LSD and is a tier reserved for “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” the website said.

    According to the KDA website, hemp contains low volumes of tetrahydrocannabinol, marijuana’s primary psychoactive chemical. The website also said hemp can be used in the production of numerous goods, including textiles, carpeting, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

    The Kentucky General Assembly passed SB 50 in 2013 but had to wait a year for the passage of the Farm Bill in 2014 to begin the industrial hemp program.

    The Farm Bill’s section governing hemp is brief, saying that “an institution of higher education or a state department of agriculture” is authorized to grow and cultivate industrial hemp for research purposes “under an agricultural pilot program or other agricultural or academic research” and if state law allows it.

    The application period for would-be hemp growers comes once a year. The first application cycle during Ryan Quarles’ tenure will open in the fall, according to the KDA website, though no specific date is given.

    Complaints and responses

    Roger Ford, CEO of Patriot Bioenergy Corp., was also denied an MOU during Comer’s term as commissioner.

    “They said we didn’t have enough growing experience even though we have several people who have farming experience and farming equipment,” he said.

    Ford said he thinks the fact that Patriot operates out of a Democratic-leaning district was a factor in the denial of the company’s application.

    Patriot is located in Pikeville, a part of state House District 94, represented by Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville.

    Kathe Andrews, a horticulture scientist whose application for a hemp MOU was denied, said people with far less experience than her have received MOUs from KDA.

    “We had everything all set up and they just didn’t give us any reason why they turned us down,” she said. “It was kind of a shock to me. It seemed like it was already decided.”

    Because of KDA’s practices, many skilled growers could be forced to leave the state in order to do hemp research, she said.

    Andrews and Ford are both members of KHGCA.

    According to the group’s ethics complaint, Comer awarded MOUs to registered Republicans and political supporters “exclusively” and excluded or restricted the issuance of MOUs to people or groups who were registered Democrats, were not allied with Comer or were in districts controlled by officials politically opposed to him.

    The complaint also argues that Kentucky’s hemp industry violates the Farm Bill, which gives permission to grow hemp to state departments of agriculture and universities, not individual producers or unaffiliated companies.

    Miller, the Hemp Industry Council’s legal counsel, who described himself as a Democrat, rejected the notion that Comer or any group inside KDA has denied applications based purely on political reasons.

    “Both Commissioner Comer and Commissioner Ryan Quarles are running this in a very nonpartisan way,” he said.

    Comer also denied the accusations. “I had no say in who got applications and who didn’t,” he said.

    Those who claim KDA’s denials are politically based are probably upset their own applications weren’t up to snuff, Comer said, adding that there are numerous reasons an MOU might be denied.

    Because the state’s hemp industry is a pilot program, potential hemp-growing operations must be allied in some way with a university for research purposes, he said.

    “If no university wants to fool with you, there’s not much the Department of Agriculture can do,” Comer said.

    Numerous individuals and companies have partnered with universities, potentially leaving some schools overburdened and unwilling to take on more partnerships for hemp research, he said.

    Neither the Farm Bill nor SB 50 nor any application available on KDA’s website includes language requiring growers to be aligned with a university.

    David Williams, director of the University of Kentucky’s Robinson Center for Appalachian Resource Sustainability, which is conducting hemp research under KDA’s program, said the school is not working with any outside hemp growers. Williams also said KDA’s program does not ask would-be growers to partner with any university. 

    “It’s not required at all,” he said.

    Comer said limiting the number of people growing hemp is detrimental to the progress of Kentucky’s hemp pilot program. He said it’s been exciting to watch Kentucky’s hemp industry grow. 

    “We’ve come a long way in two years and what we’re proving is that it’s not a drug and it’s economically viable,” Comer said.

    Hemp has the potential to greatly diversify the state’s agricultural economy and has already proven lucrative for a number of the farmers involved with its production, Comer said.

    “Hemp will never be what tobacco was for Kentucky, but it will be another tool in the toolbox,” he said. “My goal on day one and my goal today is for Congress to pass a bill that deregulates hemp.”

    Ryan Quarles said the crop, though still in an experimental stage, can provide a great deal of economic development in the state.   

    “There’s intense interest in the crop. We have people contact our office every week, wanting to invest in Kentucky,” he said. “We’re very excited to see people from across the nation look towards Kentucky as the leader with industrial hemp.” 

    — Follow Daily News reporter Jackson French on Twitter @Jackson_French or visit bgdailynews.com.

    •Editor’s note – The initially published version of this story did not adequately describe the laws governing Kentucky’s industrial hemp industry. The federal Agricultural Act of 2014, also known as the Farm Bill, gives state departments of agriculture and institutes of higher learning the authority to grow industrial hemp for research purposes. But the Farm Bill does not dictate how a state should operate its hemp program. In instances in which a state law regarding hemp conflicts with the Farm Bill, the Farm Bill supersedes state law. The story has been updated to reflect the accurate information.

     


    Jackson French
    Reporter responsible for covering Warren County Government and all things Barren County

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  • First cultivated hemp field in Minnesota since 1950 is growing strong

    By Noura Elmanssy on Jul 5, 2016 at 6:30 p.m.

    John Strohfus, owner of Strohfus Stock Farm in Hastings, grows a lot of things, but recently with the help of his partners Ben Thurmes and Ken Anderson, he’s added hemp to his list and made some history doing it.

    Eighteen acres of hemp was planted on June 17 in Hastings. It was the first time since 1950 that hemp has been intentionally planted in the state of Minnesota.

    The trio, in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), is participating in the Hemp Pilot Program, which aims to show how viable hemp could be in the Minnesota market.

    “I thought it would be a new and exciting crop,” Strohfus said. “It was something that would be a good fit for our small acreage.”

    The pilot program that was announced in March of this year allowed the growth of hemp as long as the crop could be monitored by the MDA, Strohfus explained. The program is an effort “to study the growth, cultivation, or marketing of industrial hemp,” according to the Minnesota statute on industrial hemp development.

    While other farms are involved, Strohfus has the biggest planting.

    Strohfus, Thurmes and Anderson all graduated from Hastings High School but didn’t get in touch until later in their farming careers. Strohfus and Thurmes had partnered in some farming ventures, and Strohfus reached out to Anderson, who knew a lot about the industry, when he had realized this can be done in Minnesota.

    “(Anderson) has been an advocate in the hemp industry for many years … he has also been an advocate for and a lobbyist for the legalization of hemp as an agricultural product and was involved with the first planting in the United States in 2015 in Kentucky,” Strohfus said.

    They submitted a proposal in April to the MDA and by May, they were approved and signed a contract. Strohfus said they had to wait some time before the seed arrived. When it did, a donation of grain drills from Value Implement of Ellsworth, Wisconsin, and Niebur Implement of Miesville made planting easy.

    What is hemp?

    Hemp, sometimes known as industrial hemp, is a variety of the cannabis plant. There are two forms of hemp, industrial and food grade. Industrial hemp can be used for fiber, straw, construction materials and more. Hemp for grain production is used for the food supply chain. Strohfus said that they are planting the grain variety. Food grade hemp seeds can be used in a variety of dishes like cereal or salads and is used to make hemp seed oil, a possible substitute for traditional cooking oils.

    “They’re easy to eat and cook with, and they have a pleasantly nutty taste, like a cross between a sunflower seed and a pine nut,” Christina Chaey wrote in an article for Bon Appétit.

    Cannabis is most commonly associated with marijuana, as the cannabis plant is the same species that produces the drug. Hemp and marijuana, however, are two separate products.

    According the National Hemp Association’s website, “one of the biggest misconceptions is believing that industrial hemp is the same thing as marijuana. The two plants are from the same species but are more like first cousins and NOT identical twins.”

    “Industrial hemp and marijuana are cousins of each other but they’re really apples and oranges as far as plants goes,” Strohfus said. “So much, in fact, that one of the concerns with law enforcement was that people may come out to a field of industrial hemp and try to hide marijuana in the middle of it because you can’t distinguish the plants between each other by just looking at the leaf structure; however, industrial hemp will actually kill off marijuana and so they can’t co-exist in the same, same area.”

    Due to its association with the cannabis plant, hemp became illegal in the United States through the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Although hemp has a very low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) level, which is what gives marijuana its potency, was still considered a threat and was banned from then on.

    As a part of the pilot program, Strohfus explained, a license had to be purchased through the MDA in order to sell and market the product freely. The money paid goes to monitoring the plant by taking tissue samples to ensure the THC level is below the required 0.3 percent.

    “Our hope is that in the coming 12 months, at the federal level, that hemp will be removed from the drug enforcement agency’s schedule one narcotic list,” Strohfus said, “and will no longer be listed as a narcotic and or listed specifically different from its cousin, marijuana, and that way state licensure will no longer be needed to regulate it, it would be a free market, agriculture product like corn, beans, wheat or oats. That’s our ultimate goal.”

    Where is the U.S. hemp industry now?

    With the help of the United States Department of Agriculture Farm Bill of 2014, hemp was recognized as a crop and states were given the authority to grow hemp as long as they also developed a research program to study the growth and cultivation of the plant.

    As of 2015, Colorado, Kentucky, Tennessee, Vermont and Oregon had all begun to grow hemp, joining 14 other states that produce hemp.

    “Our (Minnesotan) soils are very conducive to growing hemp,” Strohfus said, “and you know, historical data – it’s been documented that Minnesota and Wisconsin had some very, very good hemp yields back in the 30s, 40s, 50s until it was banned and also the varieties that have been developed now in Canada – Canada soil types are similar so we’re planting a Canadian variety.”

    Canada started to research the crop in 1994 and it remains a very popular location for hemp, along with other countries like Romania, the largest commercial producer of hemp in Europe.

    With the addition of programs like the hemp pilot program in Minnesota, Strohfus said he hopes to make this crop once again viable in the farming industry.

    “All three of us have a pretty good vision around that we want to make this a Minnesota soil-to-shelf product,” he said. “We don’t want to ship it to California for processing. We’d like to figure out a way to work with Minnesota partners and get it on store shelves in Minnesota within this first year.”

    What’s next?

    With the largest planting in the program now in the ground, Strohfus said that monitoring the product is the next step and making sure the logistics are developed in order to have a successful market.

    “Other farmers will be able to feel confident that they can actually recover and profit from the grain as they could bean or corn,” he said.

    Establishing a market for hemp will be a challenge, he said, but if successful, it stands to be well worth the effort.

    “… The profit margins will be much higher than the current margins for corn or beans or other smaller grain crops, wheat and oats as well,” he said.

    Overall, Strohfus said that the journey has been filled with learning and growth and hopes that this program impacts the hemp industry in Minnesota.

    “It’s been really, really fun so far, we expect to learn a lot,” Strohfus said. “Hopefully we can actually get the packaging and the placement on the store shelf, that would be the ultimate bonus, but if we can at least get to a successful yield, successfully cleaned grain and be able to market that to the current buyers, that would be good enough and then getting it on the shelf would be the ultimate prize for this year.”

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