By Associated Press
Frankfort, Kentucky — Instead of letting farmers leap into hemp production, the Kentucky House has voted to take a small step toward reintroducing a one-time agricultural mainstay.
How they voted
How Northern Kentucky representatives voted on the industrial hemp bill
Rep. Royce Adams, D-Dry Ridge;
Rep. Jim Callahan, D-Wilder;
Rep. Jon Draud, R-Crestview Hills;
Rep. Tom Kerr, D-Taylor Mill;
Rep. Paul Marcotte, R-Union;
Rep. Tom McKee, D-Cynthiana;
Rep. Jon David Reinhardt, R-Alexandria;
Rep. Arnold Simpson, D-Covington.
Rep. Joe Fischer, R-Fort Thomas;
Rep. Charles Walton, R-Florence.
The House passed a bill Wednesday to let hemp be grown for university research, provided federal drug regulators consent. The research would assess hemp’s economic potential for farmers reeling from declines in tobacco quotas.
“We will know in two years if we have a viable product or not,” Democratic Rep. Tom McKee of Cynthiana, a Harrison County farmer, said in a floor debate.
Not everyone liked the incremental approach. Some said Kentucky was missing a chance to be a leader in the industrial hemp movement.
“I’m disappointed that we are postponing an opportunity that could help farmers and agriculture in this state for two years or longer, mostly out of fear and misunderstanding,” said Rep. Steve Nunn, R-Glasgow.
Hemp’s detractors link the crop to marijuana, its hallucinogenic cousin.
Kentucky State Police officials say legalization of hemp would pose an enforcement nightmare because it is indistinguishable from marijuana.
Several lawmakers carried that anti-hemp theme to the House floor.
“I know the farmers need everything they can to replace their tobacco crops,” said Rep. Howard Cornett, R-Whitesburg. “We all know the ill-effects of tobacco use. Are we going to go from that now to promoting the use of other drugs in our state?”
Also Wednesday, Gov. Paul Patton said he opposes the growing of industrial hemp for similar reasons.
He said it would make it more difficult for law enforcement to keep track of marijuana. And he said promises of hemp as a new source of money for beleaguered farmers is overblown.
“Hemp is not the salvation of the agriculture industry in Kentucky,” Patton said. “It’s a very limited market.”
Hemp and marijuana are varieties of the cannabis sativa plant. They are virtually identi cal in appearance, but hemp lacks the concentration of a chemical – THC – that produces the “high” of marijuana.
Hemp was an agricultural staple throughout the 19th century and into the 20th. It was banned in 1937 when the federal government outlawed marijuana.
The long, willowy hemp plant has a myriad of potential uses, from paper products and textiles to pharmaceuticals and a plastics substitute.
The original bill would have legalized hemp production by farmers, with strict state regulation, contingent on approval from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The state would have licensed growers, with background checks, and could have inspected places where hemp was grown and processed.
Rep. Joe Barrows, the House majority whip, said he was bowing to political reality in agreeing to strip language allowing farmers to grow hemp.
The slimmed-down bill passed 63-31 and goes to the Senate.
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