McConnell takes credit for keeping hemp provision for Kentucky in final version of farm bill

01/27/2014 07:30 PM

As a final compromise on the farm bill emerged Monday night, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell said that he protected during the negotiations a provision allowing pilot programs to grow hemp in Kentucky.

McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, issued a statement Monday night saying that after appointing conferees to hammer out a compromise over the farm subsidy and food stamp bill, he fought to keep in the permission for Kentucky to try growing hemp at the University of Kentucky.

“This is an important victory for Kentucky’s farmers, and I was pleased to be able to secure this language on behalf of our state,” McConnell said.

A year ago this week , McConnell joined U.S. Sen. Rand Paul in voicing support for legalizing industrial hemp.

McConnell gave credit to Paul, as well as Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who pushed the initiative in the Kentucky General Assembly last year to lay the groundwork for state regulation of a hemp industry starting with the pilot project.

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway issued an opinion in September recommending that Kentucky farmers not attempt to grow hemp until the federal government gave the OK, either through an executive order from the president or an act of Congress.

“By giving Commissioner Comer the go ahead to cultivate hemp for pilot programs, we are laying the groundwork for a new commodity market for Kentucky farmers,” McConnell said. “By exploring innovative ways to use hemp to benefit a variety of Kentucky industries, while avoiding negative impact to Kentucky law enforcement’s efforts at marijuana interdiction, the pilot programs authorized by this legislation could help boost our state’s economy.”

McConnell also credited Republican U.S. Reps. Thomas Massie of the 4th District in Northern Kentucky and Andy Barr of the 6th District in Central Kentucky with sponsoring a bill. He left out Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth of Louisville, who also has supported efforts to legalize the crop.

In a statement to Pure Politics, Comer praised McConnell and the rest of the Kentucky congressional delegation — with one exception — who pushed for a measure in Congress to allow hemp. (Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers of Somerset fought against it). Comer said:

“It seems like only yesterday we were told the hemp bill would never even get a hearing at the state legislature. This new opportunity for our farm community would never have happened without the power and tenacity of ‘Team Kentucky,’ led by Leader McConnell, Sen. Rand Paul, Reps. Ed Whitfield, Brett Guthrie, John Yarmuth, Thomas Massie, Andy Barr and our stalwart bill sponsor in the very beginning, state Sen. Paul Hornback. Our little movement in Kentucky captivated the country and today the people won.”


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