FRANKFORT – A bill that would install a mechanism for the regulation of industrial hemp in Kentucky was approved in the Senate Agriculture Committee on Monday, and can now be heard in the full Senate.
Senate Bill 50 does not allow for the growth of industrial hemp while still banned by the federal government, but the Senate committee heard testimony on Monday from U.S. Sen Rand Paul, a staunch supporter of legalizing hemp for industrial purposes, who said he would work to legalize the plant at the federal level. Testimony in favor of the legislation was also given by U.S. Reps. John Yarmuth, a Democrat, and Thomas Massie, a Republican. Both also gave their support to its legalization nationwide.
The bill’s sponsor and Senate Agriculture Chairman, Sen. Paul Hornback, R—Shelbyville, told the Herald after filing the bill last month that industrial hemp has the potential to create jobs in Kentucky, and ensuring that the state has a method of regulation in place will give Kentucky an advantage were the federal government to lift restrictions on hemp.
“The big thing is that it’s one of the only bills [filed this year] that has the potential in the future to actually create new jobs and new markets here in the state of Kentucky,” Hornback said. “We’re always looking for things like that. That’s what we push for, and that’s what drives the economy, and I think it will help people throughout the state.”
Monday’s favorable vote in the Senate Agriculture Committee represented the clearing of the bill’s first legislative hurdle in becoming law, though it will likely have a tough road ahead. There has been steep opposition to the legalization of industrial hemp. Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rodney Brewer said legalizing hemp could cause issues with marijuana eradication, as the two plants are nearly indiscernible by sight. Additionally, Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo has said the issue needs further study.
“”Everybody is saying, ‘Well this is going to be a great thing for Kentucky farmers,’ but nobody has produced any evidence that would verify that,” Stumbo was recently quoted in the Lexington Herald-Leader.