March 6, 2013

Kentucky Hemp Bill Clears Committee

With the goal of being among the first states to grow industrial hemp, a bill to that end easily passed a legislative committee today.

Sponsored by Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville and supported by Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, Senate Bill 50 passed the House Agriculture and Small Business Committee, with only one vote against it; that from Republican Tommy Turner.

The idea is that if Kentucky gets in early it'll be positioned to produce a potentially significant number of jobs, including farmers, processing plants and transporting the product.

Democrat Speaker Greg Stumbo has yet to agree to allowing the bill to be put to a floor vote.

About the only opposition is coming from Kentucky law enforcement, which has concerns over the similarity in look of industrial hemp and marijuana.

While hemp looks like marijuana, it has very little THC in it - 0.3 percent - which is the active ingredient in marijuana that produces the high. Marijuana has anywhere from 3 percent to 15 percent THC in it.

Hemp growers would be required to obtain an annual license and get a background check by the Agriculture Department. Buyers of hemp would have to be provided by growers, who would also have to keep sales contract records for three years. Anyone transporting hemp would also be regulated.

On the federal level, U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul had introduced legislation that would make a distinction between hemp and marijuana. That's so an existing Kentucky law which says the hemp policy of Kentucky should be the same as that of the federal government. At this time the federal government lumps hemp and marijuana together.

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