After a delay in other Kentucky State industrial hemp pilot projects, due to the widely publicized DEA seizure of imported industrial hemp seeds, it was announced at a Murray State University (MSU) press conference, that US Hemp Oil (USHO) and its parent company, CannaVest Corp., (OTC: BB CANV), had donated seeds to facilitate the commencement of Kentucky's first successful state industrial hemp pilot project at MSU, and also the first legal industrial hemp field in the U.S. since the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, which allows for cultivation under existing state statutes.
It was revealed at the press conference that the first legal U.S. industrial hemp field was in fact planted more than three weeks ago, on May 12, while the Kentucky Department of Agriculture was suing the DEA for seizing the imported seeds under a separate law in place since 1970 that says no one can import hemp seeds without getting a permit. USHO and CannaVest's donated seeds "were sent quietly and without publicity weeks ago, directly to the office of James Comer, head of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture," said USHO VP Chris Boucher, who represented the companies at the press conference.
After Kentucky sued the DEA, the Los Angeles Times reported that the two sides agreed to a compromise with the help of a federal judge, who granted Kentucky a drug-importer permit.
USHO's Boucher was originally contacted by Dan Caudill, co-owner of Caudill Seed Co. and one of the pilot programs partners, to assist in locating seeds for one of five planned state pilot projects. Because parent company CannaVest's mission is to educate the public on the health and sustainability benefits of industrial hemp, the companies agreed to donate the seeds and will work to create a hybrid Kentucky seed for farmers, Boucher said.
USHO and CannaVest subsequently had contact with Comer's office when they arranged to ship the seeds directly to the Agricultural Department. It was confirmed at the conference by the department that CannaVest’s seeds reached two other planned pilots through the department. One was affiliated with Kentucky State University and Homegrown by Heroes military veteran farmer program and will study the cultivation of Kentucky Heirloom hemp seed in eastern Kentucky. The other was affiliated with the University of Kentucky, located in eastern Kentucky, which will focus on cultivating cannabinoids for medical research purposes. The Murray State project will cultivate European seed for the purposes of studying hemp fiber.
US News reported that the pilot projects intend to help gauge the economic potency of industrial hemp cultivation for the state. Comer related that research "will bring industrial hemp back to Kentucky and with it new jobs and new farm income" and that the pilot projects will "help us recover much of the knowledge about industrial hemp product that has been lost since hemp was last grown in Kentucky." The Kentucky Department of Agriculture's website indicates that it will work with the Kentucky Office of the Attorney General to pursue a blanket waiver that will allow Kentucky producers to grow for commercial purposes.
Of Kentucky, the nation's leading hemp-producing state in the mid-19th century, CannaVest President and CEO Michael Mona Jr. said, "We stand behind and support Kentucky and other American farmers who are looking for crop diversity and viable commercial agricultural alternatives. CannaVest and USHO look forward to continuing our support as we begin to grow this new domestic market."
Beyond seed procurement and consultation on cultivation, Cannavest Corp. and US Hemp Oil plan to provide full agricultural solutions to process raw hemp material and to distribute bulk wholesale hemp seeds, hemp oil and hemp protein powder. CannaVest will continue to bring industrial hemp products to the mainstream marketplace.
Boucher stated that he will continue to consult for USHO and work with the Kentucky Agriculture Department and Murray State University on the pilot project.
"It's a historic day for the U.S., for USHO, for CannaVest, and for myself as well," said Boucher, a 20-year hemp industry veteran. He was founder and CEO of one of the first hemp product companies in the U.S. in the early 1990s, and he cofounded the Hemp Industries Association, one of the first hemp business associations in the U.S., in the early 1990s. In addition, he has the distinction of being the first to grow a legal pilot field at the USDA research facility in Imperial Valley, Calif., in 1994. This year marks the 20-year anniversary of that accomplishment.