Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Rural anti-drug force fights Ky. industrial hemp bill, but McConnell joins Paul, Yarmuth in supporting it

UPDATE, Jan. 31: U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, also leader of the party in Kentucky, announced that he supports the bill, along with Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth of Louisville and Republican Sen. Rand Paul, Business Lexington reports. The dean of the state's congressional delegation, Republican Rep. Hal Rogers of southeaster Kentucky and the godfather of Operation UNITE, then announced that he opposes the legislation.

UPDATE, Feb. 1: Bloomberg News looks at the legalities and economics of hemp.

Some rural anti-drug law enforcers in Kentucky have announced their opposition to industrial hemp production in the state, reports The Winchester Sun. Operation UNITE (Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education) is a southeastern Kentucky program that funnels federal money into small communities to help fight drug abuse. Its announcement of opposition to industrial hemp came on the same day the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission voted to support Senate Bill 50, which would legalize its production. A similar bill is pending in the state House of Representatives.

The Kentucky State Police had already come out against the bill, saying it would make it harder for to enforce marijuana laws. "You have some prominent people supporting Senate Bill 50 and House Bill 33, but they are looking through rose-colored glasses if they believe hemp production would be a good alternative crop or provide an economic boom," UNITE Vice President Dan Smoot told the Sun. "Hemp is not in demand, would cause more problems than benefits and is currently not permitted under federal law."

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says the state needs to be in line to produce industrial hemp as soon as federal authorities allow it. He says crops of hemp, raised for the stalks, would deter marijuana cultivation, which focuses on producing drug-rich flower buds by pulling male plants from pot fields to keep them from fertilizing female plants. (Read more)

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