FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said he expects a vote next week that will legalize growing industrialized hemp in the Commonwealth.
Thursday, the Industrial Hemp Commission held their final meeting before the General Assembly session ends. Senate Bill 50 would allow Kentucky farmers to grow the hemp for use in everything from food to cloth to oil. It passed the Senate with bipartisan support. The House has to vote by Tuesday for it to become law.
"If Senate Bill 50 were left alone, it would probably pass 80 votes to 20 or 85 to 15," Comer told the commission. "The votes are there in its current form. There's no question."
The sticking point now are amendments to the bill the House added. They would increase random testing on the plants by police and tax credits for the farmers.
"I'm not for the amendments at all," said Chairperson Craig Lee.
Lee believes the additions would take money away from the Commission's efforts to grow the industry.
Lawmakers in Kentucky have been discussing similar bills for more than ten years. Despite some concerns right now, many say it's just time to get the law passed.
"I think it certainly has good opportunity to and we'll have to wait until next week and see what really develops," said State Rep. Tom McKee (D-78), chair of the House Agriculture Committee.
Comer said companies from across the country have already contacted him about buying the product.
"The owner of one of the fastest growing food company in Ohio, Plant Kingdom Bakery and Snackery, called. He imports his hemp from Canada. He said if we can get Senate Bill 50 passed and a waiver from the Drug Enforcement Administration, he would gladly sign contracts to purchase hemp grown in Kentucky," said Comer.
Locally, Lee said there are opportunities as well. Kentucky State University has already done research on hemp seed protein.
"They formulated a feed diet for hybrid striped bass. It leaves out fish meal which is big, especially if you're watching what you eat or if you're worried about mercury and arsenic and stuff like that being in your fish."
Getting the law passed will make it easier for Kentucky farmers to provide the hemp crop to businesses, but Lee says no matter what happens with the House vote, "this is going to move on whether we have politics or not."
House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-95) referred comment about the status of the bill in the House to Majority leader Rocky Adkins (D-99) who said, "I look forward to continuing the discussion on Senate Bill 50 and am hopeful that a consensus can be reached."
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