Sen. McConnell to join Sen. Paul to support efforts to legalize industrial hemp production

01/31/2013 01:04 PM

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, said Thursday he will support efforts to legalize industrial hemp.

McConnell said in a statement that he made the decision after a series of talks with Kentucky’s junior U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, as well as Republican state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who is leading efforts for Kentucky to set up a regulatory framework for the industry should Congress legalize it.

Here’s McConnell’s statement:

“After long discussions with Senator Rand Paul and Commissioner James Comer on the economic benefits of industrialized hemp, I am convinced that allowing its production will be a positive development for Kentucky’s farm families and economy. Commissioner Comer has assured me that his office is committed to pursuing industrialized hemp production in a way that does not compromise Kentucky law enforcement’s marijuana eradication efforts or in any way promote illegal drug use. The utilization of hemp to produce everything from clothing to paper is real and if there is a capacity to center a new domestic industry in Kentucky that will create jobs in these difficult economic times that sounds like a good thing to me.”

Currently, growing hemp — a form cannabis plant — is illegal in the United States. Paul has sponsored a bill in the U.S. Senate to lift the ban. Other Kentuckians — including U.S. Reps. Thomas Massie, R-Vanceburg, and John Yarmuth, D-Louisville — are supporting a similar effort in the U.S. House.

Doug Stafford and Paul spoke about this week earlier this week and came away with the impression that McConnell would quickly get on board with the efforts. Here’s an email Stafford sent Thursday morning to Katie Moyer, a member of the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Museum.

Yesterday, Senator Paul and I met with Senator McConnell and his staff at his request about the issue of Industrial Hemp in Kentucky. I was very encouraged by the meeting and I wanted to pass along what happened.

Senator McConnell told us he had a number of in-depth conversations this week about Hemp including discussions with Commissioner Comer. He appears to be favorably inclined to support our efforts, which would be big news and a great help to the legislative efforts.

I’m told he could make an announcement as soon as this week. That will certainly add to our momentum before the upcoming hearings.

Doug Stafford
Chief of Staff
Senator Rand Paul

In Kentucky, industrial hemp has become a key issue in the 2013 legislative session that resumes Feb. 5. Law enforcement officials have opposed the measure that would set up a regulatory framework for industrial hemp, partially because of difficulties that would cause with marijuana eradication efforts. Comer, meanwhile, has argued that pollination between hemp and marijuana plants would lower the amount of THC — the chemical with psychedelic properties — in marijuana.

About Ryan Alessi

Ryan Alessi joined cn|2 in May 2010 as senior managing editor and host of Pure Politics. He is now pursuing an advanced degree in non-fiction writing from Murray State University and is a regular contributor to Pure Politics. Ryan has covered politics for more than 14 years, including seven years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Ryan can be reached at purepolitics@twcable.com or @mycn2 on Twitter.

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