The death knell for industrial hemp in the 2013 legislative session may have sounded Monday, as House Speaker Greg Stumbo said a bill establishing the regulatory framework for the crop would not come to a floor vote.
Senate Bill 50, which would set a number of standards for industrial hemp farming, is in the House Rules Committee, where Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said it would stay.
Lawmakers have one day in the 2013 session to agree on amended bills passed by both chambers or assign conference committees to settle compromises.
“The calendar won’t allow us to consider bills in the rules committee,” Stumbo said. “We understand the Senate’s not going to alter the calendar, so we’re not going to alter the calendar either.”
Stumbo has raised concerns about the crop’s economic viability and its effect on marijuana eradication efforts by law enforcement agencies. He has also said he believes the legislation is unnecessary because the state would adopt federal regulations on hemp under current law.
Gov. Steve Beshear has also expressed doubts about the bill, and Kentucky State Police testified against the legislation as it moved through House and Senate committees.
SB 50 is sponsored by Republican Sen. Paul Hornback of Shelbyville and backed by Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who has said industrial hemp could bring processors and manufacturers to the state.
The bill would not legalize hemp, but rely on the federal government to lift its ban or grant Kentucky a waiver to grow it.
Holly VonLuehrte, Comer’s chief of staff, said there is still time to pass SB 50, which Comer has said would easily clear the House with about 80 votes.
“(Stumbo) seems very proud of killing the only jobs bill this session that has enormous public support,” VonLuehrte said.
The announcement comes after officials from Comer’s office met with House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, Friday, VonLuehrte said. Comer described the meeting as “very positive.”
“We had hoped, and still hope, that that was a good faith meeting, and that there could be some movement,” VonLuehrte said. “The session can be very unpredictable.”
She said SB 50’s treatment in the House demonstrates “everything wrong” with Frankfort.
The debate on industrial hemp has gained significant momentum in the 2013 session. Once an issue largely championed by the late gubernatorial candidate Gatewood Galbraith, Comer has revived the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission and led the charge to get hemp in the ground in Kentucky.
Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, a co-sponsor of SB 50, said the House could bring the bill to a floor vote by suspending its rules.
“It passed out of here with a large bipartisan majority, and it lies down at the hands of Speaker Stumbo and the House of Representatives,” said Thayer, R-Georgetown. “… There is still time. I hope that’s what they choose to do.”