Talks continue on industrial hemp legislation

By Roger Alford/Associated Press, Published:

(AP) — A compromise could be near on a bill that would allow Kentucky to quickly license hemp growers if the federal government ever lifts a ban on the crop, a legislative leader said Monday.

House Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Catlettsburg, said he's optimistic a deal can be struck between House and Senate negotiators before the Legislature adjourns on Tuesday.

"We've had good meetings," he said Monday. "I feel like we're making good progress. The intent is to make it a better bill and a stronger bill. And I think that's where we're headed."

The hemp legislation has been hotly debated this year in Frankfort and was languishing in the House before Adkins stepped in with a proposal that seemed to revive it.

Hemp thrived as a crop in Kentucky generations ago but has been banned for decades by the federal government after it was classified as a controlled substance.

Under Adkins' proposal, the Kentucky State Police would be the agency designated to issue licenses to hemp growers. That's an effort to appease lawmakers who worry that hemp could be used as a cover crop to camouflage illegal marijuana.

The proposal also would involve the University of Kentucky in hemp research and would revamp the Kentucky Hemp Commission to include the Kentucky State Police commissioner and the UK agriculture dean as co-chairs along with the state agriculture commissioner.

The original hemp proposal has already cleared the Senate and made it through a House committee. Agriculture Commissioner James Comer has said the crop could be an economic boon for Kentucky. Besides creating another crop for the state's farmers, Comer said hemp could lead to manufacturing jobs that produce products ranging from paper to cosmetics.

But the bill has been unpopular with law enforcement officials who complain that industrial hemp and marijuana have identical leaves and that laboratory tests is required to distinguish between the two. Hemp has less THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high.

Under Adkins' proposed amendment, the state's hemp commission would be attached to the University of Kentucky for administrative purposes and would establish a 5-year research program and would seek a federal waiver to allow the state to grow hemp on demonstration sites.

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  • Stating that "the bill has been unpopular with law enforcement" is putting it very mildly. Everybody knows that the only thing that will "address law enforcement’s concerns" is to kill the bill! But any conscious entity in America should be asking the question, since when and under what authority does the KSP become the ultimate authority of what laws are enacted? This is a classic case of the tail wagging the dog! According to our Constitution, it is not NOT the police's job to MAKE laws. That is solely for the people and their elected representatives to decide. The police's job is to serve and protect the people and their property by enforcing the laws on the books already, not to lobby for laws in which they have an obvious conflict of interest. This ain't a police state just yet, but they are apparently working on it. ............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................. If the other 18 states had listened to the exact same and lame arguments that their police had made, they NEVER would have enacted similar or more progressive legislation of their own. ...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... Besides, what do they expect the police position to be, as they have a vested interest in keeping hemp and its cousins illegal? The police get huge grants from the DEA for their eradication efforts, and that loss to their budgets would be significant if hemp were legalized as a commercial crop. The fact is that they count wild hemp plants just the same as marijuana when they turn in the "body count" to justify their federal DEA grant requests. Plus, eradication of marijuana is a so-called problem that will never be resolved, as folks just keep planting more every year, which is great for the police's job security, but at what cost? We are all footing the bill for this endless eradication effort that has been going on for 100 years and is still being framed by the authorities in hyperbolic terms as a scourge or epidemic. If it had been a real epidemic, we all would have been dead by now. If it had been a real scourge, 18 states wouldn't have decriminalized it. ..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... So, what if the police couldn't easily distinguish hemp from marijuana? What calamity would arise in that case? It would just bring our backward state into basic compliance with the 18 other states that have decriminalized medical and recreational marijuana. All H-E-double hockey sticks hasn't broke out in those other states as the police there had predicted. As it turns out, the police aren't very good at predicting such things because they have a conflict of interests here, and let's face it, they really aren't drug experts at all, or for that matter, agricultural experts either. The are experts at ferreting out those who use marijuana and arresting and imprisoning them, but little else. I would hope that the legislators keep that in mind as they consider the economic benefits to our farmers and industry of growing hemp.