U.S. House approved hemp amendment to farm bill but the bill died anyway

06/20/2013 05:29 PM

While the full farm bill failed in the U.S. House on Thursday, a majority of did vote for an amendment that would allow the University of Kentucky to grow hemp as called for by a state law the General Assembly approved earlier this year.

The amendment, which passed by a 225-200 vote earlier in the day, would have applied to colleges and universities in other states that have approved the cultivation and regulation of hemp, which has been against federal law since after World War II. The other states include Colorado, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.

The amendment vote was a key signal that allowing hemp cultivation could be politically feasible in Congress. However, the farm bill, itself, failed 195-234 as Republicans and Democrats feuded over food-stamp funding, among other provisions.

Northern Kentucky Republican Congressman Thomas Massie co-sponsored the hemp amendment with Democratic U.S. Reps. Jared Polis of Colorado and Earl Blumenauer of Oregon.

“Industrial hemp is used for hundreds of products including paper, clothing, rope, and can be converted into renewable bio-fuels more efficiently than corn or switch grass,” Massie said in a statement. “It’s our goal that the research this amendment enables would further broadcast the economic benefits of the sustainable and job-creating crop.”

In addition, U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, spoke in favor of the amendment on the House floor Thursday.

“Kentucky was once the nation’s leading producer of industrial hemp,” Barr said. “While the uses of hemp have grown significantly since Kentucky’s peak production in the mid-nineteenth century, the U.S. must now import much of the crop. Kentucky deserves this opportunity to demonstrate the usefulness and viability of this crop for our farmers, and the hope this bill now offers.”

Five of Kentucky’s U.S. representatives supported the amendment. In addition to Massie and Barr, Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth of Louisville and Republican Reps. Ed Whitfield of Hopkinsville and Brett Guthrie of Bowling Green voted for it.

U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, voted against it. Rogers has previously voiced concern that the crop could allow for greater cultivation of marijuana because both are canibus plants.

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