The ban on industrial hemp has long been the most glaringly senseless prohibition in America. Nearly everybody knows that hemp is “marijuana’s sober cousin”, that smoking even a whole field of it couldn’t get a person high. Yet hemp has been illegal since the Controlled Substances Act mandated its prohibition. One must procure a permit from the Drug Enforcement Administration to plant hemp in America, and they’re not giving out any permits.
But that has changed. This session, the US Congress, at the behest of Kentucky Senator and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, passed an amendment he wrote to the annual Farm Bill allowing for the cultivation of hemp for research in the US states that have passed hemp laws, like Kentucky and eleven others.
This led Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer to move forward on his promise to return hemp as a commercial crop for Kentucky farmers. He announced that the state would be moving forward with the planting of 250 pounds of hemp seeds imported from Italy. The planting ceremony was to take place this Friday with the organizations Vote Hemp and Growing Warriors, a veterans’ group that helps returning veterans assimilate upon return from war through teaching them agricultural skills.
Now that ceremony is on hold and farmers fear the delays could force them to miss the spring planting season. The DEA seized the 250 pound hemp seed shipment, evoking furor from the Comer, who took his complaints to Senator McConnell and Kentucky’s other pro-hemp senator, Rand Paul. The DEA seemed to relent late Tuesday night, saying they’d issue a permit. Then they reneged on that promise, claiming that nothing in the passage of the Farm Bill amendment authorized theimportation of hemp seeds into America, so Kentucky must apply to the DEA for the usual hemp permit that DEA never gives out.
Ag Commissioner Comer has now sued the DEA, claiming that “unaccountable federal agencies” are exercising “arbitrary and capricious powers” to deny the fact that the “cultivation of industrial hemp… is lawful.” Kentucky Ag officials refuse to apply for the permit, reasoning that doing so would force the state to admit hemp is a Schedule I drug. The Friday planting ceremony has been postponed indefinitely, as Comer says he doesn’t want to “jeopardize this court ruling.”
This stall tactic by the DEA over industrial hemp is just the latest in a long series of insubordinate acts by DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart, who once called the flying of a hemp US flag over the Capitol her “lowest point in 33 years in the DEA.” She has repeatedly condemned statements and moves by the Obama Administration toward saner marijuana policies, saying her boss’s policies make her DEA “fight harder than ever”.
Leonhart remains embroiled in the “Fast and Furious” and “Andrew Chambers” controversies; the former involving collusion with the Sinaloa Cartel and allowing American guns into Mexican cartel hands, the latter involving the re-hiring of a snitch proven to be a liar in court. Leonhart couldn’t even tell Rep. Jared Polis and Rep. Steve Cohen in congressional testimony whether marijuana use was safer than cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine.
Why President Obama continues to allow Michele Leonhart to publicly undermine the US Congress, the Department of Justice, and his own public comments is a growing mystery to drug policy observers.