February 12, 2016

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Hemp bill gets last-minute push

Published 10:26 am Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A proposal to regulate industrial hemp in Kentucky received a late push from House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, who has filed an amendment that would establish a five-year study on the crop.

Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, discussed industrial hemp Friday with Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who is leading the charge to establish a regulatory framework to cultivate the illegal plant. Senate Bill 50 would not legalize the crop, which has been federally banned because it is of the same plant species as marijuana.

Adkins amendment to SB 50, which was not brought for a vote Tuesday, would create a five-year study on demonstration sites through the University of Kentucky if the federal government grants the state a waiver to grow industrial hemp. If the federal ban were to be lifted, licensed growers would be allowed to grow the crop under the proposal.

The Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission to the UK Agricultural Experimental Station, would allow Kentucky State Police to issue licenses to hemp farmers and offer tax incentives to grow and process the crop under the plan.

The amendment would also overhaul the hemp commission, currently chaired by Comer, to be led by the dean of the UK College of Agriculture and the state police commissioner and add three members to the board.

Now I know theres parts of this amendment that well continue to talk about, and we can do that over the next 10 days as we move forward, Adkins said, referring to the 10-day veto recess that began Wednesday.

I would hope that we can keep an open mind over these next few days as we have got this amendment to work from.

SB 50 looked all but dead Monday as House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, indicated the bill could be stuck in the legislative process. He has been one of the bills primary critics, citing concerns from law enforcement and industrial hemps market demand.

Stumbo stopped short of supporting Adkins proposal, which he said he had not read closely, but he called the amendment a path forward.

His bill calls for background checks by the Kentucky State Police, who administer the program, Stumbo said. That gives me some comfort. I still havent discussed it in full with the law enforcement community, but its definitely a step forward.

Sen. Paul Hornback, a Shelbyville Republican and sponsor of SB 50, said he is glad to see the industrial hemp bill moving forward in the House. He had not seen details of the amendment nor had he spoken with Adkins when reached for comment.

I dont agree with a lot of the points that Representative Adkins had to say today, but maybe theres some room there to talk, Hornback said.

Two days will remain for lawmakers when they reconvene March 25, but any bills passed then can be vetoed without legislative override. Hornback said he hopes the two chambers can work out an agreement during the recess.