Hemp bill's latest incarnation from Adkins keeps it alive, but Comer 'appalled' by changes

03/12/2013 09:36 PM

House Democratic Floor Leader Rocky Adkins announced Tuesday night yet another version of a hemp bill — this one creating a five-year demonstration project through the University of Kentucky to grow the crop.

While Adkins unveiled the amendment Tuesday, he said it wouldn’t come up for action until the legislature returns from a hiatus on March 25.

But the move may only shifted the hemp bill, Senate Bill 50, from the category of nearly dead to barely alive given the reaction from Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and his chief of staff.

“If this were a good faith effort, don’t you think he would have reached out to the commissioner? It’s so drastic. I just don’t know if they can get the votes for it,” VonLuehrte said. “The commissioner is appalled by all of this.”

Adkins said he had a meeting with Comer over the weekend. But Comer tried “multiple times” Tuesday to reach Adkins to talk about a potential amendment, VonLuehrte said.

Under Adkins’ plan, the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission and the University of Kentucky would run the demonstration project to grow the crop, which Adkins said could help leverage the state to get a waiver from the federal government. Growing hemp is currently against federal law.

The measure also would set up a licensing process, but it would be handled by the Kentucky State Police instead of the state Department of Agriculture as Senate Bill 50 — and Comer — had proposed.

It also would change the membership and leadership of the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission, which Comer has been leading since its resurrection last fall.

“We restructured the commission somewhat to balance out the ag community with law enforcement,” Adkins said.

That includes removing it from the Agriculture Department and would make the dean of the UK College of Agriculture and the Kentucky State Police Commissioner the co-chairs. But Adkins said the ag commissioner would still “remain on the commission.”

“He’ll allow the commissioner to stay on the commission? Gee, thanks a lot,” VonLuehrte said.

She said the demonstration project approach and lack of a regulatory framework in Adkins’ version will bump Kentucky behind other states that already have laid the groundwork for an industrial hemp industry should the federal government give it the green light.

“It all but guarantees we would lose the fight to be first,” VonLuehrte said.


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