Committee passes hemp bill



By Nini Edwards | @KyKernel

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FRANKFORT — The Senate Agriculture Committee agreed 11-0 to pass a bill that would legalize growing hemp in Kentucky.

Senate Bill 50 advanced through on Monday, meaning the bill can move on to the full state Senate.

“This is a jobs bill,” Agriculture Commissioner James Comer told the committee.

Comer believes this bill will create a large influx of jobs. More than 350,000 Kentuckians are out of work, hemp is a crop that will grow well in Kentucky and the U.S. is the only industrialized nation in the world that does not grow hemp according to Comer.

UK’s College of Agriculture is participating in a study of the possible economic impact of industrial hemp to give federal delegation when they meet with the Obama administration. This study should be done by April, according to Comer.

Senate Bill 50 establishes boundaries for industrial hemp growers by the Department of Agriculture. The conditions include a background check and establishing a license.

The bill requires the department to set the cost of the license by administrative regulation, the Act does not authorize a person to violate federal law and requires periodic reports to the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul believes Kentucky should be a leader in hemp production and showed his support by wearing a shirt made of hemp.

“This is about a crop that is legal everywhere else in the world except for the U.S., everywhere else has figured out how to do this,” Paul said.

Hemp growth has historically been banned from the U.S. because of its close relation to marijuana.

Kentucky State Police say it would be hard to detect and enforce illegal marijuana if hemp is legal. Hemp and marijuana plants look identical to the naked eye according to Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rodney Brewer.

Brewer raised the issues that testing to see if the plant was hemp or marijuana would be more of a hassle and expensive.

But former CIA director James Woolsey believes identifying marijuana and prosecuting should not be a problem for the US.

“Canada, our next door neighbor, does not have a problem distinguishing industrial hemp from marijuana,” Woolsey said. “Hiding marijuana amongst the hemp plants is truly stupid, and they either have to be stupid or very high in order to take that risk.”

Even illegal marijuana growers are against hemp because it lowers their plant’s THC levels according to Woolsey. Due to the low THC levels hemp produces, when the pollen of the hemp combines with a marijuana plant THC levels are lowered in the marijuana as well.

“I think it is important to realize that people who are getting high off of industrial hemp are pretty much like people getting drunk off O’Doul’s, it is very difficult,” Woolsey said.