Conway says he'd support effort to get federal hemp waiver -- but farmers shouldn't grow crop til then

09/25/2013 06:04 PM

Attorney General Jack Conway says he doesn’t want farmers in the state to have an unrealistic expectation about the growth of industrial hemp but said he personally would not have a problem with it as long as the federal government gives the OK.

Conway put out an advisory opinion on hemp Wednesday that let Kentucky farmers know that they are not without threat of prosecution until the federal government grants approval through a law change or waiver to grow the crop.

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer released a statement saying Conway’s advisory opinion is wrong and called on him to stop threatening Kentucky farmers.

“Jack Conway is wrong to threaten to prosecute farmers,” Commissioner Comer said. “Hemp is legal in Kentucky, and the federal government has made it clear that it is not going to prosecute farmers for growing hemp. It makes no sense that Attorney General Conway would throw up an unnecessary government obstacle to an industry that has the potential to create jobs and revenue for Kentucky.”

But Conway said he would be supportive of Kentucky farmers growing the crop if Kentucky were to get the waiver and said he’d be willing to help with the waiver.

“I am willing to be supportive of the waiver if law enforcement were to come forward and say ‘yeah we can work with this framework.’ Yeah, I think it’s workable,” Conway said.

The current law, however, prohibits Kentucky farmers from growing the plant without a federal waiver, Conway said. And Conway said he wanted to make it clear to Kentucky farmers that they are not without risk of exposure without that waiver.

“What I think is irresponsible is to start saying to Kentucky farmers all across Kentucky right now ‘yeah, you can start planting in April,’” Conway said (at 3:15). “And I think it is my job to state that so that we don’t have farmers who are exposing themselves.”

During the interview, Conway also answered questions about the next steps in tackling the scourge of drugs in Kentucky.

Conway said he knows this is not a problem that the state is going to “arrest its way out of.” Instead, Conway says the real answer to the state’s drug abuse problems is treatment.

“We have one-tenth of the treatment beds that we need,” Conway said (at 9:30). “I want to work with the General Assembly, I want to work with the Governor but if we do get some kind of pharmaceutical settlement in the future hopefully we can put some of the money toward more treatment beds in the state because they are desperately needed.”

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