GPS, The FBI, and the Fourth Amendment

 

 

In 2004, Antoine Jones, owner and operator of a nightclub in D.C. was suspected of trafficking in narcotics. Various investigative leads were used by the DC police and the FBI, including visual surveillance, use of a camera focused on the front door of his club, and a pen register.

Based on information gathered from the sources, the investigators sought a search warrant allowing them to install an electronic tracking devise on a vehicle Jones used, a Jeep Grand Cherokee. The United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued a warrant authorizing the investigators to install the GPS tracking device in the District of Columbia within ten days. Then agents installed the device on the undercarriage of the Jeep on the 11th day, and while the jeep was in a public parking lot in Maryland.

After 28-day’s surveillance, Jones’ associates and stash houses were identified. District Police seized a total of 97 kilos of cocaine and $850,000. Jones and several of his co-conspirators were indicted, tried, and convicted in 2007.  They were sentenced to life in prison.

On appeal, the government had to concede they did not comply with the terms of the warrant, so they argued that a warrant was not needed. All 9 justices disagreed, for three different reasons. The main argument was that Jones’ vehicle was on a public street and there was no reasonable expectation of privacy.

The Justices also took the position that police already had probable cause (which they needed for the warrant).  This probable cause was usually sufficient to search a car on the roadway, but that argument failed as it was not made to the lower court. Another position argued below was that it was not Jones’ car, as it was registered to his wife.  That argument was also waived as not being raised in the Supreme Court.  What was the ruling?

Five justices said the government trespassed upon private property (the undercarriage), similar to a constable hiding in the baggage compartment to see where it was going, or to overhear the conversations of the passengers, something which would have violated the constitution at the time it was first adopted.

Four others felt Jones did have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the use of the long term GPS tracking of his movements. One of the five, agreeing with the trespass holding, was more concerned with short term tracking, finding it invasive to see if a person visited a psychiatrist, an abortion clinic, a criminal defense attorney, a gay bar, an AIDS treatment center, which house of worship you go to or a pay by the hour motel.

What do we learn from this case? Comply with the conditions of the warrant. Serve it in the jurisdiction, and within the time frame. The court left open the question of the modern technology that would also allow tracking without actually placing a device on the car, with or without a warrant. U.S. v. Jones, January 23, 2012

David M. Waksman, J.D., is a nationally known former homicide prosecutor with vast experience in trying violent offenders and a former sergeant with the NYPD. He served for 35 years with of the Miami-Dade (Fla.) State Attorney’s Office, primarily in the Major Crimes Division. He teaches Case Preparation and Courtroom Presentation, Police Involved Shootings, Injury and Death Investigations, and Criminal Law, at the Miami Dade College School of Justice, In-Service Training Unit and at various police departments in South Florida.  He also taught for twenty years at the Homicide Seminar for the Southern Police Institute. His specialty is Fourth and Fifth Amendment issues. He has tried almost 200 jury trials, including 79 for first degree murder. He is the author of the Search and Seizure Handbook, 3/ed.  It was cited by the United States Supreme Court in Hudson v. Michigan, 547 U.S. 586 (2006), available from Prentice Hall.

Learn more about this article here:

http://www.amazon.com/David-M.-Waksman/e/B001JRV3Q8

– See more at: http://www.lawenforcementtoday.com/2012/09/24/gps-the-fbi-and-the-fourth-amendment/#sthash.w0UcIBKb.dpuf

CONTINUE READING THRU THIS LINK….

GPS, The FBI, and the Fourth Amendment

 

 

In 2004, Antoine Jones, owner and operator of a nightclub in D.C. was suspected of trafficking in narcotics. Various investigative leads were used by the DC police and the FBI, including visual surveillance, use of a camera focused on the front door of his club, and a pen register.

Based on information gathered from the sources, the investigators sought a search warrant allowing them to install an electronic tracking devise on a vehicle Jones used, a Jeep Grand Cherokee. The United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued a warrant authorizing the investigators to install the GPS tracking device in the District of Columbia within ten days. Then agents installed the device on the undercarriage of the Jeep on the 11th day, and while the jeep was in a public parking lot in Maryland.

After 28-day’s surveillance, Jones’ associates and stash houses were identified. District Police seized a total of 97 kilos of cocaine and $850,000. Jones and several of his co-conspirators were indicted, tried, and convicted in 2007.  They were sentenced to life in prison.

On appeal, the government had to concede they did not comply with the terms of the warrant, so they argued that a warrant was not needed. All 9 justices disagreed, for three different reasons. The main argument was that Jones’ vehicle was on a public street and there was no reasonable expectation of privacy.

The Justices also took the position that police already had probable cause (which they needed for the warrant).  This probable cause was usually sufficient to search a car on the roadway, but that argument failed as it was not made to the lower court. Another position argued below was that it was not Jones’ car, as it was registered to his wife.  That argument was also waived as not being raised in the Supreme Court.  What was the ruling?

Five justices said the government trespassed upon private property (the undercarriage), similar to a constable hiding in the baggage compartment to see where it was going, or to overhear the conversations of the passengers, something which would have violated the constitution at the time it was first adopted.

Four others felt Jones did have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the use of the long term GPS tracking of his movements. One of the five, agreeing with the trespass holding, was more concerned with short term tracking, finding it invasive to see if a person visited a psychiatrist, an abortion clinic, a criminal defense attorney, a gay bar, an AIDS treatment center, which house of worship you go to or a pay by the hour motel.

What do we learn from this case? Comply with the conditions of the warrant. Serve it in the jurisdiction, and within the time frame. The court left open the question of the modern technology that would also allow tracking without actually placing a device on the car, with or without a warrant. U.S. v. Jones, January 23, 2012

David M. Waksman, J.D., is a nationally known former homicide prosecutor with vast experience in trying violent offenders and a former sergeant with the NYPD. He served for 35 years with of the Miami-Dade (Fla.) State Attorney’s Office, primarily in the Major Crimes Division. He teaches Case Preparation and Courtroom Presentation, Police Involved Shootings, Injury and Death Investigations, and Criminal Law, at the Miami Dade College School of Justice, In-Service Training Unit and at various police departments in South Florida.  He also taught for twenty years at the Homicide Seminar for the Southern Police Institute. His specialty is Fourth and Fifth Amendment issues. He has tried almost 200 jury trials, including 79 for first degree murder. He is the author of the Search and Seizure Handbook, 3/ed.  It was cited by the United States Supreme Court in Hudson v. Michigan, 547 U.S. 586 (2006), available from Prentice Hall.

Learn more about this article here:

http://www.amazon.com/David-M.-Waksman/e/B001JRV3Q8

– See more at: http://www.lawenforcementtoday.com/2012/09/24/gps-the-fbi-and-the-fourth-amendment/#sthash.w0UcIBKb.dpuf

CONTINUE READING THRU THIS LINK….

Probable Cause: Linchpin of the 4th Amendment

 

 

Except for the definition and mechanism of proving treason, no area of the Constitution addressing the rights of all persons when the government is pursuing them is more specific than the Fourth Amendment. The linchpin of that specificity is the requirement that the government demonstrate probable cause to a judge as a precondition to the judge issuing a search warrant. The other specific requirement is identity: The government must identify whose property it wishes to search or whose behavior it wishes to monitor, because the Fourth Amendment requires that all warrants specifically describe the place to be searched or the person or thing to be seized.

The principal reason for these requirements is the colonial revulsion over general warrants. A general warrant does not specifically describe the place to be searched or the person or thing to be seized, and it is not based on the probable cause of criminal behavior of the person targeted by the government.

With a general warrant, the government simply gets authority from a judge to search a haystack looking for a needle, and in the process, it may disturb and move all the straw it wants. Stated differently, a general warrant permits the government to intrude upon the privacy of persons as to whom it has no probable cause of criminal behavior and without stating what it is looking for.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court has been issuing general warrants to the National Security Agency (NSA) since 1978, but it was not until last June that we learned that these general warrants have been executed upon the telephone calls, text messages, emails, bank records, utility bills and credit card bills of all persons in America since 2009.

The constitutional requirement of probable cause is not political fancy; rather, it saves us from tyranny. Probable cause is a quantum of evidence that is sufficient to lead a neutral judge to conclude that the person about whom the evidence has been presented is more likely than not to possess further evidence of criminal behavior, or has more likely than not engaged in criminal behavior that is worthy of the government’s use of its investigatory tools such that the government may lawfully and morally invade that person’s natural right to privacy.

Last week, Robert S. Litt, general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which runs the NSA, engaged in a curious colloquy with members of the president’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. Litt complained that presenting probable cause about individuals to judges and then seeking search warrants from those judges to engage in surveillance of each of those individuals is too difficult.

This is a remarkable admission from the chief lawyer for the nation’s spies. He and the 60,000 NSA employees and vendors who have been spying on us have taken oaths to uphold the Constitution. There are no loopholes in their oaths. Each person’s oath is to the entire Constitution — whether compliance is easy or difficult.

Yet the “too difficult” admission has far-reaching implications.

This must mean that the NSA itself acknowledges that it is seeking and executing general warrants because the warrants the Constitution requires are too difficult to obtain. Stated differently, the NSA knows it is violating the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, because that amendment expressly forbids general warrants.

In my career as a lawyer, judge, law professor, author and television commentator, I have heard many excuses for violating the Constitution. I reject all of them when they come from one who has sworn to uphold the Constitution, yet I understand the intellectually honest excuses — like exigent circumstances — when they are based on duty. The NSA’s excuses are not intellectually honest, and they are not based on duty. They are based on laziness.

But there was more than met the eye in Litt’s testimony last week. Two days after Litt admitted to the use of general warrants, and while the president was in Europe, the White House leaked to the press its plans to curtail the massive NSA spying. Those plans, which would change only the appearance of what the NSA does but not its substance, have three parts.

The first change relieves the NSA of the need for general warrants to require delivery of massive amounts of data about innocent Americans as to which the NSA has no probable cause, because the second change requires the computer servers and telecoms to preserve their records — instead of the NSA preserving them — and make them “immediately” available to the NSA when it comes calling. And the third is the requirement of a warrant from a FISA judge before the NSA may access that stored data. But because that warrant is not based on probable cause but rather on NSA whim, it is a foregone conclusion that the general warrants for examination, as opposed to delivery, will be granted. The FISA court has granted well in excess of 99 percent of the general warrants the NSA has sought.

Litt must have known what the White House planned to leak when he made his “too difficult” complaint, as it fits nicely with this new scheme. Yet the scheme itself, because it lacks the requirement of probable cause that the Constitution requires, is equally as unconstitutional and morally repugnant as what the NSA has been doing for five years. Moreover, the NSA will not exactly go hat in hand to the computer servers and telecoms once it wishes to hear telephone calls or read emails or credit card bills. Its agents will simply press a few buttons on their computers when they wish, and the data they seek will be made available to them.

These so-called changes should be rejected by Congress, which should overhaul the NSA instead. Hasn’t Congress seen enough? The NSA and the CIA spy on the courts, Congress, the military, the police and everyone in America. This keeps none of us safer. But it does lessen our freedom when those in whose hands we repose the Constitution for safekeeping look the other way. What other freedoms are slipping because Congress, too, thinks upholding the Constitution is too difficult?

CONTINUE READING…

Probable Cause: Linchpin of the 4th Amendment

 

 

Except for the definition and mechanism of proving treason, no area of the Constitution addressing the rights of all persons when the government is pursuing them is more specific than the Fourth Amendment. The linchpin of that specificity is the requirement that the government demonstrate probable cause to a judge as a precondition to the judge issuing a search warrant. The other specific requirement is identity: The government must identify whose property it wishes to search or whose behavior it wishes to monitor, because the Fourth Amendment requires that all warrants specifically describe the place to be searched or the person or thing to be seized.

The principal reason for these requirements is the colonial revulsion over general warrants. A general warrant does not specifically describe the place to be searched or the person or thing to be seized, and it is not based on the probable cause of criminal behavior of the person targeted by the government.

With a general warrant, the government simply gets authority from a judge to search a haystack looking for a needle, and in the process, it may disturb and move all the straw it wants. Stated differently, a general warrant permits the government to intrude upon the privacy of persons as to whom it has no probable cause of criminal behavior and without stating what it is looking for.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court has been issuing general warrants to the National Security Agency (NSA) since 1978, but it was not until last June that we learned that these general warrants have been executed upon the telephone calls, text messages, emails, bank records, utility bills and credit card bills of all persons in America since 2009.

The constitutional requirement of probable cause is not political fancy; rather, it saves us from tyranny. Probable cause is a quantum of evidence that is sufficient to lead a neutral judge to conclude that the person about whom the evidence has been presented is more likely than not to possess further evidence of criminal behavior, or has more likely than not engaged in criminal behavior that is worthy of the government’s use of its investigatory tools such that the government may lawfully and morally invade that person’s natural right to privacy.

Last week, Robert S. Litt, general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which runs the NSA, engaged in a curious colloquy with members of the president’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. Litt complained that presenting probable cause about individuals to judges and then seeking search warrants from those judges to engage in surveillance of each of those individuals is too difficult.

This is a remarkable admission from the chief lawyer for the nation’s spies. He and the 60,000 NSA employees and vendors who have been spying on us have taken oaths to uphold the Constitution. There are no loopholes in their oaths. Each person’s oath is to the entire Constitution — whether compliance is easy or difficult.

Yet the “too difficult” admission has far-reaching implications.

This must mean that the NSA itself acknowledges that it is seeking and executing general warrants because the warrants the Constitution requires are too difficult to obtain. Stated differently, the NSA knows it is violating the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, because that amendment expressly forbids general warrants.

In my career as a lawyer, judge, law professor, author and television commentator, I have heard many excuses for violating the Constitution. I reject all of them when they come from one who has sworn to uphold the Constitution, yet I understand the intellectually honest excuses — like exigent circumstances — when they are based on duty. The NSA’s excuses are not intellectually honest, and they are not based on duty. They are based on laziness.

But there was more than met the eye in Litt’s testimony last week. Two days after Litt admitted to the use of general warrants, and while the president was in Europe, the White House leaked to the press its plans to curtail the massive NSA spying. Those plans, which would change only the appearance of what the NSA does but not its substance, have three parts.

The first change relieves the NSA of the need for general warrants to require delivery of massive amounts of data about innocent Americans as to which the NSA has no probable cause, because the second change requires the computer servers and telecoms to preserve their records — instead of the NSA preserving them — and make them “immediately” available to the NSA when it comes calling. And the third is the requirement of a warrant from a FISA judge before the NSA may access that stored data. But because that warrant is not based on probable cause but rather on NSA whim, it is a foregone conclusion that the general warrants for examination, as opposed to delivery, will be granted. The FISA court has granted well in excess of 99 percent of the general warrants the NSA has sought.

Litt must have known what the White House planned to leak when he made his “too difficult” complaint, as it fits nicely with this new scheme. Yet the scheme itself, because it lacks the requirement of probable cause that the Constitution requires, is equally as unconstitutional and morally repugnant as what the NSA has been doing for five years. Moreover, the NSA will not exactly go hat in hand to the computer servers and telecoms once it wishes to hear telephone calls or read emails or credit card bills. Its agents will simply press a few buttons on their computers when they wish, and the data they seek will be made available to them.

These so-called changes should be rejected by Congress, which should overhaul the NSA instead. Hasn’t Congress seen enough? The NSA and the CIA spy on the courts, Congress, the military, the police and everyone in America. This keeps none of us safer. But it does lessen our freedom when those in whose hands we repose the Constitution for safekeeping look the other way. What other freedoms are slipping because Congress, too, thinks upholding the Constitution is too difficult?

CONTINUE READING…

Attorney General Conway Calls on Sec. Sebelius to Overturn Zohydro Approval

 

 

 

Press Release Date:
Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Contact Information:
Allison Gardner Martin
Communications Director
502-696-5651 (office)

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway joined five other state attorneys general today in calling on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to overturn the recent approval of Zohydro ER.

“We do not want to see the great strides we have made in Kentucky combating prescription drug abuse reversed,” General Conway said. “For decades, we have fought the disastrous effects of the illegal marketing of the drug OxyContin. Zohydro ER has the potential to exacerbate the prescription pill epidemic, and the FDA’s decision to approve the drug doesn’t make sense.”

A pure hydrocodone pill, Zohydro is five to 10 times more potent than currently available products like Vicodin or Lortab and is set to hit the market this month. The painkiller’s high potential for abuse is what prompted attorneys general from Kentucky, Florida, Indiana, Illinois, Georgia and Maine to send a letter to Sec. Kathleen Sebelius asking her to reverse the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of Zohydro. A copy of the letter may be viewed at http://goo.gl/UeYsNU.

In October, the FDA approved Zohydro ER against the recommendation of its advisory panel, which voted 11-2 in opposition because of the drug’s high potential for misuse and its lack of an abuse-deterrent formulation. Additionally, one day before approving Zohydro ER, the FDA recommended reclassifying all hydrocodone products to Schedule II controlled substances because of the abuse potential. Zohydro ER is the first hydrocodone-only opioid narcotic, which is more potent than traditional hydrocodone products that are usually manufactured in a formulation with other non-narcotic analgesics.

“Prescription pill abuse has devastated families across Kentucky,” General Conway said. “The approval of this very potent drug is troubling because, unlike extended-release opioids containing abuse-deterrent properties, there is nothing that would prevent someone from easily crushing or injecting Zohydro ER to get high. The decision is especially concerning given that the FDA’s own advisory panel voted against the drug’s approval.”

In a letter to the commissioner of the FDA last December, General Conway and a bipartisan coalition of 28 other attorneys general asked the FDA to reconsider its approval of Zohydro ER. It also requested that the drug be manufactured with an abuse-proof formula.

General Conway and Florida Attorney General Pamela Bondi co-chair the National Association of Attorneys General Substance Abuse Committee.

Prescription Drug Diversion Efforts

Attorney General Conway launched Kentucky’s first and only statewide Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force in August of 2009. The task force has been involved in more than 450 prescription drug diversion investigations, including Operation Flamingo Road, the state’s largest prescription drug bust that resulted in the arrest of more than 500 people.

General Conway also worked closely with Governor Beshear, House Speaker Stumbo, Senate President Stivers and other lawmakers to win passage of landmark legislation in 2012 to prevent the abuse and diversion of prescription pills in the Commonwealth. Since passage of HB 1, overdose deaths in Kentucky declined for the first time in a decade and more than half of the state’s pain management clinics have closed their doors.

In January 2014, General Conway announced that more than $32 million recovered in settlements with two pharmaceutical companies is being used throughout Kentucky to expand substance abuse treatment, including opiate addictions. The settlement funds will create a new treatment center for adults, treatment scholarships, a grant program for new juvenile treatment beds and/or centers, and expanded services for juveniles.

In addition to the work being done here in the Commonwealth, Attorney General Conway reached across party lines to work with Attorney General Pam Bondi in Florida to ensure that her state implemented an electronic prescription drug monitoring system similar to Kentucky’s KASPER system. Together they have worked to shut down the pill pipeline between Florida and Kentucky and to see that all 50 states have prescription drug monitoring programs in place and that all of the programs can share data across state lines.

Keep Kentucky Kids Safe

In 2010, General Conway launched the Keep Kentucky Kids Safe initiative with the Kentucky Justice Cabinet and its Office of Drug Control Policy, Kentucky Pharmacists Association, National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI), Operation UNITE and concerned parents. Since its launch, Attorney General Conway and his partners have warned approximately 40,000 students, parents and teachers about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.

A recent survey has found that the percentage of Kentucky teens misusing prescription drugs has dropped dramatically over the past four years. According to the 2012 Kentucky Incentives for Prevention School Survey, the use of prescription drugs among students without a doctor’s order has decreased steadily among sixth-, eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders since 2004. The declines have been the most significant since 2008, when the Office of the Attorney General, along with state lawmakers and other agencies across the Commonwealth, began intensifying efforts to fight prescription drug abuse.

As part of the Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program, students are encouraged to participate in an annual statewide video PSA contest created to raise awareness about the risks of prescription drug abuse.

You can follow Attorney General Conway on Twitter @kyoag, visit the Attorney General’s Facebook page or view videos on our YouTube channel.

CONTINUE READING…

US considers buying industrial cannabis from Ukraine to improve its economy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The US Department of Agriculture is looking to boost imports of hemp seeds from Ukraine, hoping this will help the country’s battered economy. However, they still do not know what it will be used for.

“We are now involved in trying to figure out ways in which we might be able to use the industrial hemp seeds that are created in Ukraine in the US,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told Bloomberg in an interview Tuesday.

Ukraine is the world’s fourth-biggest producer of industrial hemp seed, the term used to refer to cannabis strains cultivated for non-drug use. Unlike another, most known type of Cannabis grown for marijuana, industrial hemp lacks that same ingredient, THC, which causes physical or psychological effects and gives smoker a high.

Industrial hemp, being one of the earliest domesticated plants known, has many uses from healthy food to making paper, textiles, biodegradable plastics, construction and even fuel.

Easy to cultivate, uses for industrial hemp are growing rapidly.

Ukraine is currently angling for aid from the International Monetary Fund, as much as $20 billion, while it has also been struggling with months of political crisis.

The Obama administration is planning to provide a $1 billion loan for the coup-imposed government of Ukraine, and is working with European allies on a broader package.

CONTINUE READING…

US considers buying industrial cannabis from Ukraine to improve its economy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The US Department of Agriculture is looking to boost imports of hemp seeds from Ukraine, hoping this will help the country’s battered economy. However, they still do not know what it will be used for.

“We are now involved in trying to figure out ways in which we might be able to use the industrial hemp seeds that are created in Ukraine in the US,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told Bloomberg in an interview Tuesday.

Ukraine is the world’s fourth-biggest producer of industrial hemp seed, the term used to refer to cannabis strains cultivated for non-drug use. Unlike another, most known type of Cannabis grown for marijuana, industrial hemp lacks that same ingredient, THC, which causes physical or psychological effects and gives smoker a high.

Industrial hemp, being one of the earliest domesticated plants known, has many uses from healthy food to making paper, textiles, biodegradable plastics, construction and even fuel.

Easy to cultivate, uses for industrial hemp are growing rapidly.

Ukraine is currently angling for aid from the International Monetary Fund, as much as $20 billion, while it has also been struggling with months of political crisis.

The Obama administration is planning to provide a $1 billion loan for the coup-imposed government of Ukraine, and is working with European allies on a broader package.

CONTINUE READING…

State ag commissioner updates Boyle chamber on hemp production

Posted: Thursday, March 27, 2014 8:17 am

State ag commissioner updates Boyle chamber on hemp production

By VICTORIA ALDRICH

[email protected]

Of all the plants that humans have cultivated throughout history, few are as versatile as hemp. Its fibers easily convert into rope, clothing and furniture material, insulation, plastics, paper and mulch. Its seeds are perfect for birdseed, hemp milk, protein powder and fish bait. Hemp oil is a cheap, nonallergenic base for paints and cosmetics. The leaves taste great in a warm loaf of bread or a salad.

One day, your Kentucky-made car may sport a hemp-based dashboard, state Commissioner of Agriculture James R. Comer told Danville-Boyle County Chamber of Commerce members Wednesday at the year’s first AT&T Public Policy luncheon.

“We successfully passed legislation to allow hemp to be grown in Kentucky this year,” Comer said, through a provision in the newly passed federal Farm Bill. “We are going to have six pilot projects at six universities.”

Since taking office in 2012, Comer has gained attention for drastic measures taken to reduce waste of funds, including monitoring employee vehicle usage through GPS systems. He also increased public accountability by publishing his office’s entire expenditure report. A critical goal this year is stimulating agricultural production and research, factors he describes as key to stimulating Kentucky’s struggling east side.

Few projects are as ambitious as a hemp cultivation program legalized at six state universities through the Farm Bill.

Each university will cultivate a specific variety, Comer explained, and focus on creating a specific finished product.

The University of Kentucky will grow an Asian cultivar to study industrial hemp production and also biomedical canniboid research.

The University of Louisville will study bioremediation techniques, and Kentucky State University will grow state heirloom seeds for industrial use in conjunction with the Homegrown by Heroes veterans program.

Murray State University will grow European cultivars for fiber studies.

Eastern Kentucky University and Morehead State University both will grow Canadian seeds for industrial and renewable energy projects.

“They will work with private-sector farmers to study production aspects and the types of products they can produce,” Comer said. “We farmers want to know what is the cost of production per acre, what is the yield per acre, what is the best time to plant, so we are very excited,” Comer said. “I perceive the hemp being grown on marginal land, on land that is currently being underutilized. You can grow it on land with a greater slope or on land where you wouldn’t grow other things.”

“Boyle County, from a historical perspective, was ground-zero for industrial production for hemp, and we’d like to be at that spot again. Can you give us a hand?” chamber member Mike Perros asked.

“What grows best in western Kentucky may not grow best in Boyle County so we have at least two good years of research that has to be done,” Comer said. “We’re making progress, and it’s not at the level some people would like, but a year ago it was illegal to grow it.”

Few agricultural endeavors generate as much controversy in the United States as hemp production, an established industry throughout the world.

Liberal and conservative backers agree on its endless industrial potential, ease of growth and lack of hallucinogenic content. Critics dislike its low THC levels compared to its notorious cousin, marijuana, and how easy it is to confuse both plants during air surveillance, the most common way police discover illegal cultivation.

“We can pretty much grow it anywhere we want to. The language of the Farm Bill requires it to be administered through a university pilot project,” Comer said.

“This was illegal a few months ago so we’ve made a giant step, but we are going to have to go through a lot of bureaucracy. We found out customs and border patrol hadn’t read the Farm Bill so we had a container of seeds that was turned around and is headed back to China. As I understand it, we have very few seeds in Kentucky.”

Securing companies to process and sell finished goods is critical to jump starting research.

Comer said one company, Caudill Seed, will process seed-based products at plants in Louisville, Morehead and Winchester. Industrial hemp grown in western Kentucky will be purchased by a company in western Minnesota to make plywood and other items for the construction industry.

“Anything that you can make from a tree, you can just about use from hemp. That’s why it’s more sustainable,” Comer said.

Production in eastern Kentucky will focus on creating renewable energy options and possibly automotive manufacturing, Comer added.

“In Germany, Mercedes and BMWs are manufactured using dashboards and other products from the hemp fibers. If you can replace plastic with hemp, that’s taking a giant step toward being sustainable and that’s great for the farmers.”

The project also complements another initiative the state has launched to replace eastern Kentucky’s dead coal industry. Locally produced crops and finished goods will feature a new symbol, Appalachia Proud: Mountains of Potential, similar to the Kentucky Proud program.

“The University of Pikeville is going to produce ginseng,” Comer said.

“You look at the landscape out there and it is obviously mountains and rough terrain. What can you grow or produce in that region? Ginseng grows in the woods, and all that is harvested in Kentucky ends up in Japan or Asia to be processed. We want to develop a processing industry in Kentucky. That’s a unique, outside-the-box partnership between the university and outside industry.”

CONTINUE READING…