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Kentucky Senate passes bill to license industrial hemp farming

By Angela Norwood     Feb 14, 2013 in Politics
The Kentucky Senate passed a bill to license legal farming of industrial hemp, should the crop be legalized by the federal government.
Kentucky Senate Bill 50 was passed today in a 31-6 vote — and could make the state one of the nation's first to legalize industrial hemp should the crop be legalized on a federal level.
Proponents of the bill believe thousands of jobs could be created through the legalization of hemp farming. U.S. Senator Rand Paul showed up to the committee in a hemp T-shirt, and testified that if the bill passed, he would work with the president to obtain a federal waiver allowing hemp production in Kentucky.
Despite the overwhelming vote in favor of the bill, some remain skeptical of the economic potential for hemp in Kentucky. Several of the six senate members who voted against the bill cited the concerns of law enforcement.
Earlier this week, Kentucky State Police chief Rodney Brewer testified against Bill 50, stating law enforcement may have trouble distinguishing hemp from marijuana.
Others are optimistic about hemp's future, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. In a statement published Jan. 30, McConnell stated he was in support of hemp farming for Kentucky.
“I am convinced that allowing its production will be a positive development for Kentucky’s farm families and economy,” McConnell said. “The utilization of hemp to produce everything from clothing to paper is real and if there is a capacity to center a new domestic industry in Kentucky that will create jobs in these difficult economic times that sounds like a good thing to me.”
In 2012, McConnell spoke out against the legalization of marijuana, citing the “detrimental effects of drugs..[such as] short-term memory loss, loss of core motor functions, heightened risk of lung disease, and even death.”
Agriculture Commissioner James Comer is also in favor of the legalization of industrial hemp in Kentucky. “I am extremely proud of the Kentucky State Senate for its commitment to job creation in Kentucky,” he said.
Both McConnell and Paul joined Oregon senators in sponsoring a bill to define hemp as a "non-drug" and remove it from the federal controlled substance list — as long as the hemp contained a concentration of THC measuring 0.3 or lower. In contrast, marijuana contains anywhere from three to 15 percent THC.
Kentucky is the ninth state to vote in favor of legalizing industrial hemp farming and production. The bill now heads to the House, where Speaker Greg Stumbo believes it will have a "tougher time."
More about Kentucky, Hemp, hemp farming, Kentucky legalize hemp, Kentucky senate
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