Governor Steve Beshear is allowing a bill regulating hemp in Kentucky to become law without his signature.
Supporters of Senate Bill 50 were concerned that the Governor might veto the bill after he continuely expressed concerns that law enforcement groups had with the bill.
But those concerns apparently weren't enough to veto the bill, as the governor says he will let it become law.
The bill allows the Department of Agriculture and Industrial Hemp Commission to issue licenses to grow hemp if a federal ban is lifted. It also allows the Kentucky State Police to do background checks on license applications.
Gov. Steve Beshear has until Saturday to sign or veto a bill that would open the door to industrial hemp farming in Kentucky. So far, he hasn't said what he'll do.
The General Assembly passed the bill last Tuesday in the final minutes of this year's legislative session, giving the governor 10 days excluding Sundays to veto it, according to the Legislative Research Commission.
The bill would allow Kentucky farmers to grow hemp if the federal government lifts its decades-long ban on the plant. Hemp can be used to make products ranging from paper to cosmetics.
It thrived as a crop in Kentucky for generations before it was classified as a controlled substance related to marijuana. Although hemp is similar to marijuana, it has a negligible amount of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high.
Agriculture Commissioner James Comer will lead a Kentucky delegation to Washington to ask for an exemption to allow farmers in his state to grow industrial hemp.
That announcement comes after the Kentucky Legislature passed a bill that lays the groundwork for licensing hemp growers if the federal government ever lifts a ban on the crop.
Hemp thrived in Kentucky generations ago but was banned after the federal government classified it as a controlled substance.
Comer has said hemp could be an economic boon for Kentucky. Besides creating another crop for the state's farmers, Comer said hemp could lead to manufacturing jobs that produce products ranging from paper to cosmetics.
Negotiations have broken down on a bill that would allow Kentucky to quickly license hemp growers if the federal government ever lifts a ban on the crop, according to a state legislative leader.
House Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Catlettsburg, had voiced optimism early Monday that a deal could be struck between House and Senate negotiators before the Legislature adjourns on Tuesday. However, by Monday night, he said he was disappointed by the lack of progress.
The hemp legislation has been hotly debated this year in Frankfort and was languishing in the House before Adkins stepped in with a proposal that seemed to revive it.
Hemp thrived as a crop in Kentucky generations ago but has been banned for decades by the federal government after it was classified as a controlled substance.
Kentucky's industrial hemp supporters lashed out Thursday against a last-minute amendment to the hemp bill that's been under consideration this year in the General Assembly.
State Rep. Rocky Adkins, a Sandy Hook Democrat and the majority floor leader, has proposed an amendment turning the Senate-approve hemp bill into a five year study. It also gives the licensing responsibilities to Kentucky State Police, which argues that legalized hemp would harm law enforcement efforts to target hemp's cousin, marijuana.
Agriculture Commissioner James Comer is the leading proponent of the hemp bill, which establishes a regulatory framework in Kentucky for hemp farming should the federal government ease its restrictions on the plant.
"I think that was the straw that broke the camel's back with the public that are keeping up with this issue, so I think they've heard from the people of Kentucky: don't study this issue," Comer said. "Let's set up the regulatory framework, don't get in the way of creating jobs and helping our farmers."
The Executive Branch Ethics Commission has a meeting set for Monday when they could decide whether former University of Kentucky basketball star Richie Farmer violated any of rules when he was state agriculture commissioner.
Farmer was accused in a state audit last year of using Department of Agriculture employees to take him hunting and shopping, mow his yard and chauffeur his dog. Those accusations and more were passed along to the Ethics Commission.
Farmer served two terms in the elected-position of agriculture commissioner. He ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2011.
Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner is speaking out against efforts to amend his number one legislative priority—a much talked-about industrial hemp measure. James Comer says an amendment allowing five years of hemp growing demonstration projects in the state is just an effort to kill the bill.
The measure has enjoyed a good deal of bipartisan support in Frankfort, and passed the full Senate and the House Agriculture Committee. But the bill is now hanging by a thread after House Speaker Greg Stumbo refused to allow the bill an up-or-down vote. And the Courier-Journal reports Comer isn’t pleased with an amendment offered this week that would have the Kentucky State Police—instead of the Agriculture Department—issue licenses for hemp-growing demonstration projects.
Still, the bill’s sponsor—Senator Paul Hornback of Shelbyville—says he plans to meet with House leaders next week to allow some kind of action on the measure when lawmakers return for the final two days of the session on March 25th and 26th.
House Floor Leader Rocky Adkins has proposed an amendment that he believes could revive legislation intended to allow Kentucky to quickly license hemp growers if the federal government ever lifts a ban on the plant.
Adkins' proposal would involve the University of Kentucky in hemp research and would revamp the Kentucky Hemp Commission to include the Kentucky State Police commissioner and the UK agriculture dean as co-chairs along with the state agriculture commissioner.
"I would hope that we could keep an open mind over these next few days," Adkins said. "I know there are parts of it that people won't like; there are parts of it they do."
The hemp legislation has been hotly debated this year in Frankfort. House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Adkins' proposal seems to be "a path forward" but that he will have to take a closer look before deciding whether to support it.