Push for Pro-industrial Hemp Legislation in Kentucky

By: Melissa Warren Email
By: Melissa Warren Email

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said last week the state could bring in added revenue by introducing a new crop to production, industrial hemp.

Hemp is used in cosmetics, paper, and fabric among other things, and is currently illegal to produce in the U.S. under federal law. Commissioner Comer says the state should be prepared in the event the federal government changes that law, because it could give huge boost to Kentucky's economy. That Economic boost is why he wants Kentucky to pass its own form of pro-hemp legislation.

"We import 85 percent of hemp that's used from Canada, and we're the only industrialized nation that doesn't, and there are so many uses for hemp... and this would give our farmers another crop they can grow," said Kentucky State Sen. Joey Pendelton.

One local farmer seems to think when it comes to a new crop, if you allow it, people will farm it.

"I'm sure they would. It would have to compete with other crops, but I'm sure if it's profitable, farmers would be ready to go," said Bowling Green farmer James Lyles.

The plant's relation to marijuana has many law enforcement agencies in opposition to the legislation.

"The problem is, you cannot tell an industrial hemp plant from a marijuana plant because they're both the same thing. The only difference is the THC content in each plant," said Tommy Loving, Dir. Warren County Drug Task Force, and Exec Dir. Kentucky Narcotics Officers Assoc.

THC is the psychoactive compound in the plants that gives marijuana users a high, but there are only small amounts in hemp.

When the Kentucky Narcotics Officers' Association met last week, it unanimously voted to oppose any pro-hemp legislation. Loving says the similarities make it too easy to cover up marijuana trafficking.

"From our perspective at the drug task force, when people are trafficking marijuana, they'll say they're selling hemp," said Loving.

He says enforcement isn't the only problem the plant will create.

"We will overwhelm the state police lab system besides complicating prosecution,"said Loving.

For now, it looks to be a battle between business and the war on drugs, with the law in between, a law Comer hopes to pass by 2014.

Commissioner Comer is not the only one pushing for pro-industrial hemp legislation.
On a national level, Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has voiced his support in Kentucky, and says he will work to bring support for legislation like this to Washington.

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