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Officials progress on hemp stalemate

Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - Attorneys summoned before a federal judge made headway Friday toward ending a stalemate over a detained shipment of hemp seeds that spurred the Kentucky Agriculture Department to sue the federal government, a top department official said.

Discussions presided over by U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II didn't resolve the dispute over the 250 pounds of seeds from Italy meant to be planted as part of test projects to gauge the crop's viability. The seeds are still being detained by U.S. customs officials in Louisville.

Holly Harris VonLuehrte, chief of staff to Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, said she was encouraged by the conference and said the state agency planned to go through a registration process to obtain an import permit that would free up the seeds.

"We're going to, I think, sit down with the DEA and get this worked out," she told reporters afterward.

Defendants in the lawsuit filed this week include the Justice Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Attorney General Eric Holder.

DEA proposed the permitting process in earlier discussions with the state's agriculture officials, the Justice Department said in a statement.

"The DEA will continue to work with state officials so the state can lawfully obtain the seeds," the statement said.

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