Posts Tagged ‘industrial hemp growing in Ky’

Kentucky House May Choke on Hemp Bill

Monday, February 18th, 2013

“It won’t make us high, but it can certainly make us happy.” That’s how a Lexington Democrat characterized the highly-publicized industrial hemp bill during the Senate floor debate on Senate Bill 50 last week.

Senate Ag committee chairman Paul Hornback, himself a farmer, is the sponsor of the bill that doesn’t legalize hemp in Kentucky, since it’s currently outlawed by the federal government, but it sets up a regulatory framework in case Congress legalizes it or Kentucky is granted a federal waiver to grow it.

The Commissioner of Kentucky State Police, Rodney Brewer, vented his objections to the measure in committee last week. The KSP fear that hemp harvesting will complicate marijuana eradication efforts if growers try to disguise the weed in their legal hemp plots. And, they question whether the economic viability of hemp is worth the risk. On the Senate floor last Thursday, Senator Hornback agreed that industrial hemp may not be a cash cow, but, he claimed, it is a crop worth trying.

If the hemp plan becomes law, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer’s office will certify that hemp seed is below the appropriate THC level; administer background checks and license growers; provide GPS mapping of industrial hemp production to law enforcement; inspect the crops; and conduct testing when necessary.

Senator Kathy Stein of Lexington spoke on how hemp came to be misunderstood and misclassified decades ago.

Freshman Chris Girdler of Pulaski County, lives in the home district of U.S. Representative Hal Rogers. Rogers is against the bill because the federal dollars granted for efforts to rid his fifth congressional district of illegal and prescription drug abuse might be compromised if hemp is allowed. During the roll call vote, Girdler became the first to vote ‘no’ after characterizing hemp as a distracting non-issue amid more worrisome woes.

Hornback’s Senate Bill 50 cleared the Kentucky Senate on a vote of 31 to 6. Senate President Robert Stivers of Clay County in eastern Kentucky did not cast a vote. The measure faces a bleak future in the Kentucky House as the House Speaker Greg Stumbo is on record as being skeptical of hemp’s economic benefits. Senate Bill 50 now awaits action by the House Ag Committee.

Tomorrow, I’ll have the latest on telecom deregulation, school dropout legislation and human trafficking measures that passed last week. Bill Goodman and panelists will discuss the telecom bill on tonight on “Kentucky Tonight” at 8pmET.

State lawmakers are off Monday in observance of President’s Day, but tune in tomorrow night at 11pm ET for “Legislative Update” for a recap of the day’s activities. Follow @ReneeKET on Twitter for constant updates throughout the day.

Political Heavyweights Add Muscle to Hemp Bill

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Kentucky’s Agriculture commissioner recruits some Kentucky ambassadors from the Beltway to muscle through a bill positioning Kentucky for industrial hemp production if the federal government allows.

Senate Bill 50, sponsored by Senate Ag Committee chairman Paul Hornback, calls for the state Ag department to establish conditions and procedures for licensing industrial hemp growers who would have to plant a minimum of 10 acres.

Agriculture Commissioner Comer’s office would assume all of the responsibilities of Senate Bill 50 from certification that hemp seed is below the appropriate THC level, administering background checks and licensing growers, providing GPS mapping of industrial hemp production to law enforcement and inspecting the crops and conducting tests when necessary.

Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rodney Brewer voiced his opposition to the measure out of fear law enforcement would be hard pressed to distinguish between marijuana and hemp in outdoor fields except through laboratory testing.

An unlikely trio of Kentucky’s federal delegation banded together in favor of Senate Bill 50 and made their appeal before the Ag panel: Republican Thomas Massie of the 4th Congressional District; John Yarmuth of the 3rd CD and Kentucky’s junior US Senator Rand Paul.

Paul donned his dress shirt made of hemp made in Canada while  pitching the bill before the Senate Ag panel. He said Kentucky is sending profits to our neighbors up north, which he decried as nonsense. Senator Paul has a plan in Congress to legalize industrial hemp production in this country, or seek a waiver for Kentucky.

Kentucky’s third district Congressman John Yarmuth joked about why an urban federal lawmaker from Louisville is interested in industrial hemp legislation. Yarmuth says he’s interested in hemp because it can mean new jobs.

Thomas Massie, Kentucky’s newest Congressman from the fourth district in Northern Kentucky, spoke in favor of Senate Bill 50 from three different perspectives: as a legislator, a farmer, and an entrepreneur. He and Yarmuth have filed a bill in Congress that would exempt hemp with less than .3 percent of THC concentration from marijuana laws. In economic terms,
Massie explained where Kentucky stands in the hemp movement.

Paul Hornback’s Senate Bill 50 cleared the Senate Ag committee unanimously and now heads to the Senate. In a press conference after the vote, Senate Majority Caucus Chair Dan Seum said he hadn’t gauged Republican’s reception to the bill yet and didn’t know if it would be called for a floor vote this week.

Watch KET’s  “Legislative Update” each weeknight during the session for a report of the day’s Capitol activities at 11pm ET on KET and follow @ReneeKET throughout the day on Twitter for updates.

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