On the left is an industrial hemp plant. On the right, a marijuana plant
KSP Commissioner Rodney Brewer
Rep. Thomas Massie, State AG Commissioner James Comer, Rep. John Yarmuth and Sen. Rand Paul
FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - Hemp was a hit Monday in Frankfort. The Kentucky Senate Agriculture Committee held the first hearing for Senate Bill 50, which would give Kentucky farmers the opportunity to grow industrial hemp.
"This issue has overwhelming support of the people," said state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer.
Comer said industrial hemp would be a cash cow for someone. Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rodney Brewer said the problem is that someone is marijuana growers.
"Because of the similarities between hemp and marijuana," said Brewer. "They are identical in appearance when it comes to the naked eye."
State police and the commonwealth's attorneys were the lone voices against industrial hemp because of fears it would make fighting marijuana growing more difficult. Otherwise it was an all-star cast testifying in favor a bill that would set up a way to grow it in Kentucky.
"The marijuana growers are about the last people who want industrial hemp," said James Woolsey, former CIA director and member of the North American Industrial Hemp Council.
Longtime hemp proponent Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) offered his case for hemp.
"It's a crop that's legal everywhere else in the world but the United States," Paul said.
Representatives Thomas Massie (R-KY4) and John Yarmuth (D-KY3) argued it would bring jobs to Kentucky, helping farmers who once grew tobacco.
"I am loathe to give up on any potential economic opportunities that this commonwealth possesses," Yarmuth said.
"You've all heard of eBay," said Massie. "Nobody's heard of the second online bidding site. You've all heard of Facebook, you've all heard of Google. What if somebody sat back and said let's see how the search engine business goes for Google before we get into this business."
Monday's testimony convinced ten members of the Agriculture Committee to give it unanimous support.
Senate Bill 50 still has to pass the full Senate and then head over to the House before it would become law. Even if all of that happens, federal law still has hemp on its list of controlled substances.
Some of Kentucky's lawmakers are pushing a bill in Washington that would change that and plan on asking the DEA for an exemption if those fail to pass.
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