This article by Bruce Schreiner of the Associated Press state, “Kentucky Senate passes bill allowing farmers to plant industrial hemp if federal ban lifted.”
The industrial hemp bill cleared the Senate by a 31-6 vote, with backers noting that, ” Hemp’s comeback would create processing and manufacturing jobs in converting the plant into products that include paper, clothing, auto parts, biofuels, food and lotions.”
Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said hemp supporters haven’t yet proven there’s a viable market for the crop that vanished from U.S. farms decades ago.
“It’s not that we’re saying ‘no,'” Stumbo said. “We’re simply saying that the evidence doesn’t show that there’s enough of a market to override the concerns that the law enforcement community has.”
Law enforcement skeptics, including Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rodney Brewer, worry that officers will be unable to detect the difference between hemp and marijuana without costly lab tests. They worry marijuana growers would infiltrate hemp fields to plant small plots of pot. Supporters have tried to debunk that claim, saying growers would avoid hemp fields because the hemp would greatly diminish the potency of the marijuana.
Republican Sen. Chris Girdler of Somerset, who opposed the bill, expressed doubts about hemp’s economic potential. He said he hopes he’s wrong and that hemp produces thousands of jobs if it makes a comeback, but added, “Unfortunately, I believe that growing a Chia Pet would have as much economic prosperity as the growing of hemp.”
U.S. retail sales of hemp products exceed $400 million per year, advocates say. Dozens of countries produce hemp, and most imported hemp is grown in Canada and Europe. Girdler said hemp producers there are supported by government subsidies, a claim disputed by national hemp advocates.
Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul recently introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate to legalize industrial hemp, according to the article. Schreiner continues:
Paul made a pitch for hemp during a state Senate committee hearing on Monday. He even wore a shirt made of hemp fiber. Paul has said he would seek a federal waiver to allow for a resumption of hemp production in Kentucky if the federal legislation stalls.
If the bill in Kentucky is approved by the full Legislature, the Bluegrass state would join eight others that have taken steps to allow commercial hemp production, despite the federal ban.