Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hemp legalization in Ky. gains political traction

An effort to legalize industrial hemp in Kentucky may have its best chance yet of passing the General Assembly this session, Gregory Hall of The Courier-Journal in Louisville reports in a big Page One story. Opposition from the Kentucky State Police has previously killed efforts at legalization. The KSP still claims that growth of the crop would make it harder to catch producers of hemp's illegal variety, marijuana. But this session, the bill has support from top politicians who find the claims that hemp production will create thousands of jobs hard to ignore.

Legalizing hemp would require cooperation of federal authorities, but the idea has gained traction in large part because of the crop's old history in the state and an alliance between state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, right.

Comer supporters have worried that his fellow Republicans who run the Senate and have other candidates in mind for the 2015 governor's race would bottle up the bill, but Hornback told Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, that the leaders told him the committee he chairs would get the bill when the legislature reconvenes Feb. 5. Gov. Steve Beshear has also expressed a willingness to work with law enforcement on the issue.

"This is something that you don't have to borrow any money for that will have an immediate impact of thousands of jobs," Comer told Hall. Comer assumes that hemp processors and manufacturers would locate to Kentucky without encouragement if the state was one of the first to allow hemp growth. "We're ahead at something that relates to economic development for once, so let's pursue it." Senate Bill 50 would require growers to be licensed annually and have their backgrounds checked by the state Agriculture Department. Each grower would have to plant a minimum of 10 acres. (Read more)

No comments: