Hemp bill unanimously passes Senate Ag committee after all-star panel of testimony

02/11/2013 03:49 PM

The Senate Agriculture Committee voted unanimously Monday to pass a bill that would create the framework for the hemp industry in Kentucky.

In what Ag Commissioner James Comer called the most impressive panel ever assembled to debate a bill three members of the Kentucky federal delegation voiced their support of the measure.

Senate Bill 50, which is sponsored by Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, seeks to create a regulatory framework if hemp is legalized at the federal level. Currently growing hemp is illegal because of its similarity to marijuana, a Schedule 1 substance.

Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rodney Brewer told the group his agency opposes legalizing hemp for several main factors including: enforcement concerns for aerial surveillance, THC testing, and the fear of illicit growers could plant marijuana in a hemp field. Brewer shared many of the same points in an exclusive extended sit down interview last month.

Brewer was joined by Kentucky State Police Forensic Laboratory Director Laura Sudkamp who attempted to dispel an argument between proponents that hemp would ruin the potency of marijuana.

Former CIA Director R. James Woolsey told the group that the information the state police presented regarding pollination was not quite accurate. When asked if a farmer might take the chance and grow marijuana in a hemp field, Woolsey replied flatly, “Only if he knows nothing about botany, and is high on marijuana,” which brought cheers from largely pro-hemp crowd.

Woolsey, who served under President Bill Clinton from 1993-1995, also told the group that you could not get high on hemp, something also the Kentucky State Police also said was a fear.

“Getting high on hemp is like getting drunk on O’Doul’s,” he said.

Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth of Louisville, and Republican U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie of Lewis County all spoke in favor of the push within Kentucky to create a framework for hemp and vowed their support at the federal level.

Paul told the group he has again co-sponsored legislation in the Senate to De-criminalize hemp in the United States. But he said if that does not work that he, along with Yarmuth, would ask President Barack Obama for a federal waiver.

Yarmuth, who is now the lone Democratic federal delegate, said even though there is little farming in his Louisville district, he would be loathe to give up on any potential industry that could help Kentucky’s economy.

Massie, who is the sponsor of a bill in the U.S. House to legalize hemp, said he has several reasons to be in favor of the legislation including his own Kentucky farm and the need to be amongst the first states to act when hemp is legalized.

“My first exposure to hemp was not in college,” Massie said. “But as a farmer…”

After the vote. Comer said he was excited the bill carried through the committee and was optimistic on the future of the bill as it carries through the process.

However. House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, has said he would like to wait to hear the bill in the House until after an economic impact study by the University of Kentucky. That study will likely not be done until the late spring — after the 30-day legislative session ends.

Senate Bill 50 will now move on to the full Senate for a vote. State Sen. Dan Seum, R-Louisville, who is the majority caucus chairman said the caucus would meet this week to discuss when the bill would be heard on the Senate floor.


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