After DEA approves hemp seed import, Ky. plants landmark crop

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The week after a quick legal battle came to an end, Kentucky researchers sank hemp seeds into the earth and began an anxious wait for green sprouts to surface as part of the state's first legal crop of cannabis since the World War II era.

The state-sponsored planting of hemp Tuesday at a University of Kentucky farm was the second of seven expected to occur before the end of the month.

Authorities sharply curtailed hemp growing in the United States in the 1930s because cannabis plants produce both the flower referred to as marijuana and the fibers known as hemp. While the flower secretes a chemical compound that produces an intoxicating high, the seeds and stalk do not. Still, until February, the ability to legally cultivate hemp was limited.

A new federal law now lets states run pilot projects to figure out how much profit there is in growing hemp, which can be used to make food, fuel or material.

The 13 varieties of seeds imported from Italy planted Tuesday had been at the center of a skirmish involving the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The agency refused to OK the import, citing conflicting laws. After Kentucky sued, the two sides agreed to a compromise with the help of a federal judge.

Kentucky secured a drug-importer permit but won't have to spend thousands of dollars putting in place extra security measures at the farms.

The seven plots of hemp will be harvested in the fall, assuming they grow. Researchers plan to see which varieties grow best and what conditions -- such as soil type and fertilizer -- work well.


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