Recently, the feds served up yet more evidence that pursuing federal solutions to American problems wastes our time.
Americans spend a tremendous amount of energy and squander vast resources trying to initiate change through Washington D.C. I’ve argued ad nauseam that expecting federal politicians to solve our problems constitutes an exercises in futility. Washington D.C. won’t solve America’s problems. It is America’s problem.
And even when Congress does something that remotely devolves authority back to the states or the people, the feds muck it up and still end up playing the bully. Expansion of power drives the actions of centralized authority. Relinquishing power defies its nature.
The good people of Kentucky recently learned this lesson the hard way. Instead of following the lead of states like Colorado and Washington, the Kentucky legislature passed a hemp farming bill in 2013 that deferred to federal authority. Where Colorado simply ignored the unconstitutional prohibition of industrial hemp, the Kentucky bill allowed hemp cultivation contingent on the feds giving the OK. (If you doubt my assertion of unconstitutionality, ask yourself why it took an amendment to prohibit alcohol.)
Shockingly, Kentucky lucked out and got permission for limited hemp farming when a federal farm bill passed authorizing hemp production for research purposes. One should note that in the meantime, Colorado actually harvested a hemp crop absent federal permission.
Federal blessing in hand, the Kentucky Agriculture Department and university officials set about preparing for the state’s first hemp crop. Things progressed nicely until the DEA came lumbering onto the scene and confiscated the state’s hemp seeds.
Kentucky was once the leading producer of hemp in the U.S. Sadly, the federal government decided that it needed to crush the hemp industry as part of its asinine and unconstitutional “war on drugs.” Hemp shares a biological relationship with marijuana, but lacks any significant amount of THC, the active ingredient that makes people high. Literally thousands of uses for the fibrous plant exist, including the manufacture of paper, clothing, cosmetics, construction materials, automobile parts and foods. It also serves as an excellent source for “green” biofuel production.Hemp prohibition was pushed aggressively by industries that would have to compete with hemp, including timber/paper interests and petrochemical companies.
So, the one-time leader of a thriving hemp industry in the U.S. was forced to purchase seed for its federally-approved research from Italy.
The DEA said, “Not so fast.”
Despite the freshly printed federal law allowing for limited hemp production, the anti-drug agency had some hoops for the state to jump through. The DEA confiscated the seeds and refused to release them to Kentucky officials. Kentucky hemp processor David Barhorst told the Huffington Post, the DEA essentially ignored federal law.
“The DEA is willfully violating federal law and intentionally impeding the research of Kentucky’s universities and Department of Agriculture.”
According to US News and World Report, the DEA demanded Kentucky obtain a controlled substance import permit and argued that each entity growing hemp would require separate permitting. This included six universities and two private affiliate growers, along with the Department of Agriculture. After running the state through the ringer, compete with threats of lawsuits, the feds finally issued the permits and released the captive seeds.
All of this occurred despite the clear intent of Congress to allow states to grow hemp on a limited basis. State ag commissioner James Comer met with Sen. Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul to discuss the issue.
“They were just appalled, because Senator McConnell was the author of the language,” Comer told the Huffington Post. “He knows exactly what the congressional intent of the law was.”
This vividly demonstrates the point: even when it acts with seemingly good intentions, the feds still wield unconstitutional and unauthorized power with reckless abandon.
So, why play along by their rules?
An interesting sidebar demonstrates how Kentucky should have handled the whole hemp business in the first place.
Apparently, a smaller shipment of seed from another company made it through the federal gauntlet and into the Bluegrass State. Despite federal blustering, hemp advocates had every intention of going through with a planned ceremonial planting.
“They didn’t realize, I don’t guess, that we have some actual seed in hand,” Comer said of the DEA, telling the Huffington Post the agency had hinted there could be arrests at the event. “I think they’re running up the chain what they’re gonna do.”
Vote Hemp, along with a veterans group known as the Growing Warriors, were two of the partners in the event planned for May 16. Vote Hemp spokesperson Lauren Stansbury said she had every intention of defying the feds.
“We’re basically expecting the DEA may show up on Friday. If that does happen, our plan is to continue with the planting,” she said. “If they want to arrest a bunch of war veterans for planting hemp, that’s their decision.”
Stansbury demonstrates exactly how Americans should handle unconstitutional and unjust federal actions – ignore and defy them. Colorado harvested a hemp crop and didn’t waste any time jumping through federal hoops. Kentucky should have followed the The Centennial State’s lead. The state legislature should have simply legalized hemp production in the Kentucky and let the farmers go to town. It would have saved a lot of time, money and aggravation.
In fact, lawmakers in both South Carolina and Tennessee passed just this type of bill during the recent legislative season. With more and more states simply ignoring hemp prohibition, the federal government will find it increasingly impossible to enforce it, despite shenanigans like the DEA pulled on Kentucky – a state playing by the “rules.” It lacks the resources to stop the momentum of a national nullification effort.
As this entire incident demonstrates, Washington D.C. can’t even solve problems when it sets out to solve problems. Groveling in marble buildings at the feet of federal officials wastes valuable time and energy. We find true solutions at the state and local level.
Stop asking permission where none is required.
Editors note: Still intent on federal permission, the Kentucky Agriculture Department asked Vote Hemp and other organizers of the ceremonial planting scheduled for May 16 to stand down so as not to jeopardize a lawsuit. Organizers agreed.
“We have been directed by the KDA to not plant the hemp, as they are concerned the DEA will surely be present and that any arrest of hemp farmers would compromise their lawsuit,” Stansbury told to HuffPost.