Hemp commission member says delegation planning to request a federal waiver to grow crop

04/08/2013 08:18 AM

Now that supporters of growing industrial hemp have the groundwork laid in Kentucky, a bipartisan group of officials is now turning to Washington to get the go-ahead to grow the crop.

Jonathan Miller, the former state treasurer and a member of the industrial hemp commission, said the request could be made of the Obama Administration before June. Those who will likely play a role include Republican Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth of Louisville.

“In the next few weeks or so, sometime this spring, we’re gonna go up — Commissioner (Comer), a couple of the board members possibly myself. We’re going to gather with our bipartisan delegation,” Miller said. “Sen. Paul and Congressman Yarmuth are playing the point and start meetings with Obama administration officials. The thing with hemp it is an issue that it involves a lot of different agencies. At the center is the Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Agency. They’re the ones who will be making the ultimate decisions.”

But Miller said those are not the only agencies with an interest in industrial hemp. He said the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Energy are all interested in the crop, which could mean more avenues for the group to seek support for a federal waiver.

“Getting (the agencies) together on the same page is going to be our critical element,” Miller said. “It might take some time, but I’m confident from what I’m hearing from my friends in Washington that there is a lot of interest from a lot of important people that want to legalize hemp. Or at least it allow states like Kentucky that have a waiver to be able to do it on their own.”

Skeptics of the bill include Gov. Steve Beshear and the Kentucky State Police mainly because of fears enforcing marijuana eradication efforts in the commonwealth.

Several states have passed measures allowing marijuana and hemp to be grown even though it is still illegal at the federal level.

And Miller said he supports legalizing marijuana, but that does not mean everyone who supports hemp on the commission also supports marijuana.

“I support legalizing marijuana. I came around after Gatewood Galbraith died, and I dedicated a few months to looking at his critical issue and I realized that he was right, but other hemp supporters like Commissioner Comer aren’t for legalizing marijuana,” Miller said. “Hemp and marijuana are very different.”

The Pew Research Center shows that for the first time a majority of Americans favor legalizing the use of marijuana. And that Miller said is good news for proponents of legalizing industrial hemp.

“The fact that there is a majority of Americans out there supporting legalizing marijuana. There is probably a super super majority of Americans that support legalizing hemp,” Miller said.

And Miller said that super majority could be the political difference for passing the law in the United States.

“President Obama has the opportunity without taking the risk of angering all the people who are opposed to marijuana legalization and appeasing those of us who support both by legalizing hemp or at least allowing states to do a waiver,” he said.


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