Kevin's interview with Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner and Monroe County native James Comer
Kentucky's agriculture commissioner says last week's setback shouldn't cause hemp supporters to give up hopes of getting the crop legalized. James Comer told WKU Public Radio he's not surprised language legalizing industrial hemp failed to get added to the first drafts of farm bills in the U.S. House and Senate.
Last week, a group of Kentucky U.S. Senators and House members tried--and failed--to get that language included in the legislation.
Comer says the federal farm bill has a long way to go before it gets passed, and a lot of things will be added and taken out in the next few months.
"And I learned during this last session in Kentucky, when I read in the papers that (House Speaker) Greg Stumbo would say my bill was dead, that it's not over until the very last day, so we're still holding out hope on it," said Comer, a farmer from Monroe County.
Industrial hemp legalization has failed to make it into draft copies of farm bills in the U.S. House and Senate.
The hemp issue enjoys the support of seven of the eight members of Kentucky’s federal delegation, and Senator Mitch McConnell had explored the possibility of inserting a hemp legalization provision in the Senate farm measure.
However, that provision didn’t have wide enough backing among Senators to make the farm bill draft.
A McConnell spokesman told the Courier-Journal that McConnell and Senator Rand Paul “continue to look at several options to move the hemp legislation through the Senate.” The spokesman said inclusion in the farm bill isn’t the only option for changing federal laws regarding industrial hemp.
Kentucky lawmakers this year passed a bill allowing farmers in the state to grow hemp if the federal government legalized the crop.
WKU Public Radio has contacted the office of Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer for any response to hemp's lack of inclusion in the draft farm bills. We will bring you any reaction when we receive it.
A trio of Kentuckians who favor the legalization of hemp says a trip to Washington D.C. to meet with lawmakers and executive branch officials was beneficial.
Former state treasurer Jonathan Miller, Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and State Senator Paul Hornback spent three days in D.C. pushing for either the national legalization of industrial hemp, or a waiver to grow it in the commonwealth.
Earlier this year, state lawmakers approved a bill that sets up the framework to grow hemp in Kentucky if it's legalized on the federal level. The group met with most of Kentucky's federal delegation as well as officials from the Energy and Agriculture departments. Miller says the overall response to their message was positive, and even House Speaker John Boehner indicated he would like to see hemp legalized.
"He ultimately concluded that he was very favorable and that he would use his influence and talk with Senator McConnell to develop a strategy to seek its passage," Miller says.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell was joined by most of Kentucky’s federal delegation in a letter to the Drug Enforcement Administration seeking clarification on the industrial hemp issue.
Kentucky passed a law earlier this year that would allow industrial hemp farming — but only if the DEA ever lifts restrictions on the plant.
Sen. Rand Paul and Reps. Andy Barr, Brett Guthrie, Thomas Massie, Ed Whitfield and John Yarmuth co-signed the letter with McConnell on Thursday. They asked whether the DEA has reconsidered its hemp regulation in light of legislative action in Kentucky and elsewhere. Rep. Hal Rogers didn’t sign.
Hemp is similar to marijuana but has a negligible amount of the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high. Proponents say it could be an important crop for Kentucky.
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer is finalizing details for an upcoming trip to Washington, D.C., to try and get a federal waiver for industrial hemp.
Earlier this year, Kentucky lawmakerspassed a bill setting up a regulatory framework for hemp growing in Kentucky. Comer promises to work at the federal level for legalization or a waiver.
And now, Comer says he'll be head to Washington the week after Derby meeting to meet executive branch officials and others.
"Very high level people in the Obama administration, very high people in Congress outside of Kentucky, then we'll have a meeting in Senator McConnell's office with the Kentucky delegation," Comer says.