Hemp bill passes Senate 31-6, now faces uncertainty in the House

02/14/2013 03:55 PM

The bill to set up regulations of industrial hemp if the federal government allows it to be grown in Kentucky passed the state Senate by a 31-6 vote Thursday afternoon.

Senate Bill 50 is sponsored by Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, and backed by Agriculture Commissioner James Comer as well as U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and U.S. Reps. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, and Thomas Massie, R-Lewis County. The opposition in the Senate came mostly from senators in the southeast part of the state represented by U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, who has opposed the measure.

Hornback asked the Senate to give the legislation an opportunity, and not to punt by waiting for another study of the issue — a clear reference to House Speaker Greg Stumbo who has said he wants to see the results of a University of Kentucky study about the economic impact of the industry. That study is due this summer.

The senators voting ‘no’ on the bill were: Democrats Ray Jones of Pikeville and Johnny Ray Turner of Floyd County and Republicans Chris Girdler of Somerset, Brandon Smith of Hazard, Albert Robinson of London and David Givens of Green County. Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, did not vote on the measure. Of those, only Givens represents a senate district outside of Rogers’ congressional district.

That region has been ravaged by drugs. And Girdler — Rogers’ district director — told his colleagues he opposed the bill and did not think it would have a positive economic impact.

Rogers issued a statement to Pure Politics in early February that his “first concern is the challenge facing our thinly stretched marijuana eradication teams and law enforcement.”

Meanwhile Comer applauded the passage of the bill in the Senate and congratulated the body in a statement.

“I am extremely proud of the Kentucky State Senate for its commitment to job creation in Kentucky,” Comer said after the vote. “Today’s bipartisan vote is the first step toward more opportunities for our farmers and jobs for Kentuckians.”

The bill now heads to the House where it faces an uncertain future.


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