Law enforcement finally speaks on hemp, opposing legislation even as commission backs it

01/28/2013 01:42 PM

Representatives from law enforcement skipped a meeting of the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission in Frankfort Monday morning before issuing a statement opposing legislation aimed at setting up a regulatory framework for the industry.

The statement came as the commission endorsed Senate Bill 50 – - the industrial hemp bill written by members of the commission and sponsored by Sen. Paul Horback, R-Shelbyville. It would create regulatory framework for Kentucky farmers to produce hemp should the federal government allow it to be grown in Kentucky.

Dan Smoot, a member of the industrial hemp commission and vice-president for operation UNITE — an anti drug organization — issued a statement condemning the legislation as “not economically sound.” Smoot wrote that hemp is not in demand and would cause more problems than benefits.

“Although industrial hemp contains only a small percentage of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, the plants are indistinguishable to the eye. Without laboratory analysis, you can’t tell them apart,” wrote Tommy Loving, executive director of the Kentucky Narcotics Officers’ Association.

Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer, a Republican, told the media and commission members he wished the Kentucky State Police and other law enforcement members would have come to the meeting. He said he was willing to work with law enforcement if they have concerns.

Among the concerns voiced by the group opposing the legislation is that “illegal growers” would sign up as hemp producers and co-mingle marijuana and hemp, something Comer says can not biologically happen.

“Everyone knows that industrial hemp is marijuana’s worst nightmare because it kills the toxicity in the marijuana plant,” Comer said in a written statement after the meeting. “So it is very troubling to me when I hear reports that marijuana growers and certain members of law enforcement are on the same side. The arguments from our opposition are shallow, misleading, and downright wrong. I believe the best way to get people off drugs is to put them back to work.”

Senate Bill 50 does seeks to create a framework of regulations in the event the federal government allows cultivation in the commonwealth.

The bill assigns the Kentucky Department of Agriculture the responsibility to license and inspect the production of industrial hemp. The licensing application process would include a criminal background check, GPS coordinates for the field and a minimum acreage of 10 acres. And it would subject the applicant to inspections. All licenses would be valid for one year and be recorded with the state police.

The law would also require farmers to keep records of sales and buyers, allow for inspections by the Ag Department or state police, and document the hemp seed is less than .03% THC — the chemical with psychedelic properties contained in marijuana plants. An amendment was discussed by the commission to SB50 which would also put the KDA in charge of testing to ensure the THC is within those levels.

The Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission also took steps on Monday on ways to promote hemp across the state. The group heard from several radio station representatives who have put together what’s known as a spec radio ad for the group.

The radio station executives told the group they could blanket the state with the ads or target them to specific counties to put pressure on lawmakers to support the legislation.

The radio ads would be paid for with contributions from Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps and Senator Rand Paul’s RAND PAC, which have put up a total of $100,000 for the commission.

The group also commissioned an economic impact study to be performed by the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture with the hopes that such a study could have an impact on the discussion at the federal level to legalize industrial hemp. The Dean of the UK Dept. of Ag, M. Scott Smith, told the group a study would not be ready during the 2013 legislative session.

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@charter.com.

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