Hemp seeds seized at US-Canada border

DENVER (AP) _ Hundreds of pounds (kilograms) of industrial hemp seeds bound
from Canada to Colorado have been seized by U.S. border authorities, marking the
latest bump along the road to legalization of marijuana's non-intoxicating

At the center of the dispute is hemp activist Tom McClain. Armed with a copy of
last year's federal Farm Bill, which allowed states to permit hemp cultivation
for research and development, he set off for MacGregor, Manitoba, and bought 350
pounds (158 kilograms) of seeds used to grow a strain known as X-59 or Hemp Nut.

Hemp is legal in Canada and 15 U.S. states allow limited hemp production,
including North Dakota, where the seeds were seized. However, under the Farm
Bill, importing hemp seeds requires permission from the U.S. Drug Enforcement

McClain's seeds were confiscated Saturday, after he says he declared the seven
bags in his trunk. McClain, however, has not been charged with a crime.

``They treated me very professionally,'' McClain said after he returned to
Colorado _ without the seeds. ``They were just a little confused as to what to
do. According to them, I couldn't bring them in.''

Shawn Neudauer, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement,
confirmed the seizure.

``The shipment is currently undergoing scientific evaluation, as hemp seeds can
look much like marijuana seeds,'' Neudauer said in a statement.

The seizure underscored the difficulties facing the fledgling U.S. hemp
industry after five decades of prohibition.

Hemp is prized for oils, seeds and fiber, but its production had been
prohibited because the plant can be manipulated to enhance the psychoactive
chemical THC _ the intoxicant found in marijuana.

In another recent case, U.S. customs officials in Louisville, Kentucky, held a
shipment of hemp seeds from Italy that was bound for research grows.

Kentucky agriculture authorities sued the U.S. Justice Department, the Drug
Enforcement Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Attorney
General Eric Holder to force the return of the seeds. The DEA eventually
relented and issued a permit to allow limited hemp planting for research in the

McClain and Jason Lauve of the Colorado-based activist group Hemp Cleans have
appealed to congressional representatives in the state to resolve the seed flap
in North Dakota.

A spokeswoman for Colorado's Agriculture Department, Christi Lightcap, said the
agency hasn't been approached to intervene.

Colorado has accepted more than 40 hemp-cultivation applications. But the state
has a ``don't-ask-don't-tell'' policy about the origin of the seeds used in the

Growers, meanwhile, have expressed frustration over the limited availability of
seeds that are affordable and haven't been smuggled into the U.S.

The seeds confiscated in North Dakota were destined for experimental plots.
Lauve said owners have only about two weeks to get the seeds planted so they can
harvest the hemp before snow falls.

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