Legislature passes industrial hemp bill

By Roger Alford/Associated Press, Published:

Kentucky would be able to quickly license hemp growers if the federal government ever lifts a ban on the crop under a measure approved by the state Legislature Tuesday.

“We have, in my opinion, put together a strong bill,” said House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Catlettsburg. “We will be on the cutting edge and be ready to hit the ground running.”

The measure passed the House 88-4 late Tuesday night. Minutes later, it passed the Senate 35-1. It now goes to Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, who hasn’t said whether he will sign it into law.

Once a politically taboo idea, growing hemp has become an increasingly popular idea among Kentucky’s elected leaders. Senate Republicans pushed the legislation, which was initially frowned upon by House Democrats.

Hemp thrived in Kentucky generations ago but has been banned for decades since the federal government classified it as a controlled substance related to marijuana.

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.

“By passing this bill, the General Assembly has signaled that Kentucky is serious about restoring industrial hemp production to the commonwealth and doing it in the right way,” Comer said in a statement. “That will give Kentucky’s congressional delegation more leverage when they seek a federal waiver allowing Kentucky farmers to grow hemp.”

The bill was unpopular with law enforcement officials. They said hemp could be used to camouflage marijuana, which has identical leaves but far less potency. Hemp has a negligible content of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high.

Under the bill, the state would have GPS coordinates of licensed hemp fields. Hemp growers would undergo criminal background checks, and each grower would be limited to 10 acres per license.

Comer has championed the hemp bill, saying its reintroduction would give farmers a new crop and would create processing jobs to turn the fiber and seeds into products ranging from paper to biofuels. Dozens of countries already produce the crop.

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  • I am not as skeptical about the feds changing the law on hemp as some of you are, as I believe that if we can keep the Republicans out of Washington that it is indeed possible, and perhaps sooner than we think. For sure if Romney had been elected it would have been a cold day in Hades before anything would change on this front...don't take my word for it, he said so. ..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... There has been a real change in public opinion about hemp and its cousin in the last 8 years, and like gay rights, it is sweeping the country at a rapid rate. This was a definite step in the right direction and a real slap in the face of KSP, Sheriff Melton and the rest of the Drug War hawks, even if is figuratively for the moment...let there be no mistake about that. And that is worth the price of admission right there.

  • Aga you are 100% correct! What this also does is puts us/legislators in a position to perhaps move towards what other free thinking states has already done to save money from imprisoning harmless marijuana users & wrecking the lives of their families.

  • It's a nice feel-good measure that does nothing, at least not at this point, and maybe never. Kind of like telling someone you'll give them a lot of money if and when you win the lottery--it's probably never going to happen, so you're safe saying that. Same thing with this bill. Frankly, I can't understand what all the fuss was about....maybe they had to create some drama so people would notice them doing something good.

  • This was a good thing, yes, but let's be realistic, people. Nothing will happen until federal law changes, so for all practical purposes, it changes nothing.

  • This is a clear case of THE GOOD OUTWEIGHING THE BAD. Not that there were any bad to start with when it comes to marijuana. I think most (not the police) realizes that this plant doesn't cause the damage that abusing other real drugs do. Quit cutting off the nose out of despite of the face.

  • Wow, who would have thunk that all of those legislators were "dope dealers who just wanted to legalize drugs" and "get everybody hooked on drugs", "which are sooo good for you."