Senate bill addressing states industrial hemp program unanimously clears chamber

02/28/2017 08:36 PM

FRANKFORT – Legislation rewriting the legal framework for an industrial hemp program aligning state regulations with the federal 2014 Farm Bill which authorized state-level research pilot programs, was passed by the state Senate on Tuesday by a 35-0 vote.

Senate Bill 218, sponsored by Senate Majority Floor Leader Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, was the product of six months of close collaboration and consensus-building among three key stakeholder agencies that included the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA), Kentucky State Police (KSP), and the UK College of Agriculture.

SB 218 is also supported by the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet as well as the Governor’s Office, according to a press release from Senate Republicans.

In rewriting the legal framework that the General Assembly enacted in 2013 with Senate Bill 50 so that it is more aligned with the 2014 Farm Bill, it authorizes KDA to promulgate administrative regulations to run the program.

In addition, the legislation replaces the old Hemp Commission with a new Industrial Hemp Advisory Board that will give advice and input to KDA, and it charges UK’s Regulatory Services laboratory with responsibility for THC testing.

The bill contains six important law enforcement safeguards, according to Senate Republicans:

  • Requires applicants to submit GPS coordinates for growing locations.
  • Requires applicants to give written consent to entry by representatives of KDA, KSP and other law enforcement agencies.
  • Requires annual criminal background checks.
  • Imposes a 10-year program ban for any person convicted of a felony.
  • Imposes a 10-year ban for any person convicted of a drug-related misdemeanor or violation.
  • Imposes a 10-year program ban for any person convicted of any felony.

Thayer says the bill protects the state from people who might decide to grow marijuana, and not industrial hemp.

“The bill helps deal with some of the concerns from people who might be trying to take advantage of the hemp law by growing marijuana which is an illegal plant,” Thayer said.

The bill aims at increasing transparency by creating a process for suspension and revocation of licenses, with rights of appeal to a three-person administrative panel, and it also allows disappointed applicants to appeal to a three-person panel.

Originally, SB 218 was a “shell bill” that was amended with language related to industrial hemp.

“The bill wasn’t ready in time to file on the last day to file a bill, so we had a “shell bill” available,” Thayer said. “We started working on the committee substitute about 10 days ago and got the process moving.

“The House wanted the Senate to file the bill because of the sheer volume of bills that they’re dealing with down there, so we had a little bit more bandwidth to deal with something like this.”

Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles was in the chamber when the vote was taken.

SB 218 now moves on to the House.


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