Comer says Speaker Boehner was lobbied by daughter on hemp; D.C. trip 'very successful'

05/15/2013 04:41 PM

In his trip to Washington, D.C., last week to push for legalizing industrial hemp, Agriculture Commissioner James Comer found that he had unlikely — and influential — ally who has been lobbying House Speaker John Boehner on that for years.

Comer met privately with Boehner for more than 30 minutes. And he said it was a surprise that he didn’t need to explain the differences between hemp and marijuana to Boehner.

“He said that his daughter had been a proponent of this for many years — over a decade. He was glad that I came here and he would like for me to perhaps testify on the bill in Congress, and that as far as he was concerned unless somebody gave him a better reason not to be for it he didn’t have a problem with it and he thought it would be a good thing to provide jobs and help farmers,” Comer said. (1:00 in the video)

Comer said the trip, which received national attention from political outlets , was “very successful.” And he came away encouraged that one of several strategies could work to win federal approval to grow the crop, which his been illegal since the 1940s.

Comer, former Democratic state treasurer Jonathan Miller and Republican state Sen. Paul Hornback traveled to the nation’s capital to lobby officials within the Obama administration for a federal waiver to grow hemp and to ask Congress to legalize hemp plants, which are in the same botanical genus as marijuana.

Hemp legislation could proceed as a stand alone bill like Northern Kentuckian U.S. Rep Thomas Massie’s Hemp Farming Act or U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden’s hemp legislation in the Senate. Comer said he preferred to continue pursuing an executive order from President Obama to allow Kentucky to grow hemp.

“The Obama administration is going to have to be a willing partner. It can be like the Beshear administration and just kind of say things but not really do anything. Obama is going to have to work with Congress on this, and I think we’re getting there,” Comer said.

Another option for hemp at the federal level is to tie the measure to an existing bill through an amendment, such as the farm bill.

Politico reported on Wednesday that McConnell failed in adding the hemp measure into the wider farm bill before it passed the Senate Ag Committee on Tuesday, although it could still be folded into the bill through an amendment on the Senate floor next week.

Overall, Comer said he was energized by the trip and said there is a strategy in place to see the bill is acted on in Congress.

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@charter.com.

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