Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says he is restarting the long-dormant Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission. The General Assembly created the commission ten years ago to look into hemp's potential in the commonwealth, but it has never met.
Thursday morning, Comer announced that he is reforming the commission and, per state law, he will be the chairman.
“Kentucky has the perfect soil and climate to be the nation’s top producer of industrial hemp. Studies have shown that hemp could be at least the 3rd most profitable crop in Kentucky and our farmers could capture the lion’s share of the industry,” he says.
Comer is working with Senator Rand Paul to pass laws on the state and federal levels to allow widespread growth of industrial hemp. Paul says he believes his federal bill has a shot of becoming law, since Democrats are also co-sponsoring it.
“You know our farmers are one of the greatest parts of our economy. We do things very well in agriculture. If we would legalize hemp I think we would be one of the leaders of the world. I think we have a chance of passing it,” Paul says.
Kentucky was once a leading hemp producer, and supporters of the crop say it could generate millions in revenue. But law enforcement officials say farmers could too easily hide marijuana crops in their hemp fields. Comer rejects that idea, saying the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana is easy to spot, and if the two plants cross-bred, both would be ruined.