Ky. officials ramp up bipartisan push to legalize industrial hemp production

08/23/2012 09:51 AM

Federal restrictions on hemp are holding Kentucky back from allowing its farmers to grow what could become the third most lucrative crop in the state, several top-ranking Kentucky officials said Thursday.

Speaking before the Kentucky Farm Bureau’s annual ham breakfast at the Kentucky State Fair, Republican U.S. Senator Rand Paul and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer outlined their efforts to legalize the crop in Kentucky, which would have to start with Paul’s bill in the U.S. Senate to drop federal restrictions on growing hemp, which is a type of cannabis plant but with less psychoactive properties than marijuana.

Comer announced the restart of the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission, which has been dormant since 2001.

The commission will first be tasked with studying the economic impacts of growing hemp. Comer explained what hemp could be used for and how the commission was coming back together. Watch the video:

Comer said the Farm Bureau has taken hemp off of the list of policies it opposes and is now neutral on the issue.

Paul wore a shirt made from hemp to show one of the many ways he says the plant can be used.

Paul has filed his bill in the U.S. Senate with Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon to lift the federal restrictions on the growth of hemp.

In the United States, the growth of hemp is illegal because of its relation to marijuana and any imported hemp must meet a zero tolerance level due to the plant being considered a controlled substance.

But Commissioner Comer says hemp would be marijuana’s “worst nightmare” because it reduces its potency when the plants are cross-pollinated.

Some states, including Kentucky, have taken steps to legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp but have not begun to grow due to the restrictions at the federal level from the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Kentucky Gov.Steve Beshear says he is open to the idea but stopped short of saying he would actively push for legalizing it because of the concerns that law enforcement agencies have about it.


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