Ky. Hemp Commission to move forward with licensing as Ky. State Police question legality

09/12/2013 01:36 PM

FRANKFORT – Kentucky’s Industrial Hemp Commission and the Kentucky State Police are still at odds over the crop as the commission pushes forward on licensing farmers while the state police have asked the attorney general to weigh in.

Hemp commission members on Thursday voted to draft licensing regulations. Several commission members brought up the U.S. Department of Justice’s recent decision not to contradict new state laws in Washington and Colorado that allow recreational marijuana use. They said that represented a shift in policy that applies to hemp, which like marijuana is a cannabis plant and has been against federal law to grow.

The Kentucky legislature passed Senate Bill 50 in the 2013 session, which set up the framework for the commission to regulate industrial hemp farming in Kentucky if the federal government granted permission to grow it. Gov. Steve Beshear and Commissioner of the Kentucky State Police Rodney Brewer had concerns over the state’s ability to regulate it and prevent the crop from shielding marijuana plants from the law’s reach.

Maj. Anthony Terry, who represents the KSP on the Industrial Hemp Commission, said law enforcement’s position is that the Department of Justice’s decision not to intervene in Washington and Colorado “changes nothing as far as federal or state laws.”

Holly Harris, the general counsel for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, told reporters after the meeting that industrial hemp is exempt from the Controlled Substances Act in Kentucky and, in essence, is legal. Still, federal guidelines must be followed.

Terry, however, said the Kentucky State Police will ask Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway for an advisory opinion on whether licensing hemp in Kentucky is legal.

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and other members of the commission have talked with U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, who has agreed to sign a letter asking for a clarification on hemp with the U.S. Attorney General and Department of Justice.

Senate Bill 50 may also have to be sent back to the General Assembly for “clean up” on how the hemp regulatory organization is structured. Comer said he was not concerned about whether the bill, which would make small structural changes, would have any trouble clearing in the General Assembly.


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.