Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) now has until April 6 to either
veto the legislation or sign it into law, but even then the state
won’t be allowed to simply start growing the plant to be used for
anything from food to fuel: federal legislation outlaws production
from coast to coast.
Even with Uncle Sam standing in the way, the state lawmakers
that approved the measure say they are optimistic about having
Washington overturn the federal ban. The group Vote Hemp says that
the states of Colorado, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon,
Vermont, Washington and West Virginia have all previously approved
legislation that legalizes hemp production, but the federal mandate
has made actually growing the crop impossible everywhere within the
US since it is still considered a Schedule I drug. With Kentucky
signing on to be the latest state looking to grow, though, things
could soon change on a federal level.
“This historic legislation puts Kentucky in position to be
first in line if and when the federal government legalizes
production of industrial hemp,” Agriculture Commissioner James
Comer said in a statement this week. “By passing this bill, the
General Assembly has signaled that Kentucky is serious about
restoring industrial hemp production to the Commonwealth and doing
it in the right way. That will give Kentucky’s congressional
delegation more leverage when they seek a federal waiver allowing
Kentucky farmers to grow hemp.”
“As soon as the governor signs the bill, I’ll be on the plane
to Washington” to seek a waiver, added Comer.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) issued a statement on Wednesday
morning after the news was reported in order to thanks his fellow
lawmakers for moving forward with something he says will be
instrumental in kick-starting his state’s economy.
“I commend the Kentucky General Assembly for final passage of
Senate Bill 50. I want to thank Kentucky Commissioner of
Agriculture James Comer, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Paul
Hornback and the members of the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission
for their leadership and hard work in passing this
legislation,” Sen. Paul said.
“Senate Bill 50 is an important step forward in the
reintroduction of industrial hemp in Kentucky. I have pledged,
along with Rep. John Yarmuth, to seek a waiver when a regulatory
framework is in place. I will follow through on that pledge and I
hope that Kentucky will soon start growing hemp, creating jobs and
leading the nation in this industry again.”
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky.) also went on the record to
urge for assistance from Washington as soon as possible to make
harvesting hemp a reality.
“I will continue to work with Senator Paul on a federal
approach that would enable Kentucky farmers to cultivate and profit
from industrial hemp in a way that does not compromise Kentucky law
enforcement’s marijuana eradication efforts or in any way promote
illegal drug use,” he said.
Kerri Richardson, a spokesperson for Gov. Beshear, tells the
Courier Journal, “The governor is going to review the bill and
talk with law enforcement before making any decision.”
Federal restrictions with regards to marijuana began in the
early 1900s, but those laws in turn outlawed the production of hemp
which, while related to the illegal plant, has a number of
desirable qualities and little-to-know detrimental effects.
“While marijuana has a potency range of 3 percent to 20
percent by dry weight of THC, industrial hemp is generally defined
as having less than 1.0 percent THC,” says the Arizona
Industrial Hemp Council. “Moreover, hemp contains a relatively
high percentage of another cannabinoid, CBD, that actually blocks
the marijuana high. Hemp, it turns out, is not only not
marijuana; it could be called ‘antimarijuana.’”