industrial hemp

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.

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.

Comer to Lead Pro-Hemp Delegation to Washington

Mar 29, 2013
Kentucky Department of Agriculture

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.

Kentucky lawmakers have achieved a compromise that would set up a regulatory framework should the federal government legalize industrial hemp.

The so-called hemp bill—Senate Bill 50—gives control of licensing of future hemp farmers to the Industrial Hemp Commission, but allow the Kentucky State Police to do background checks on the farmers.

The state Department of Agriculture would be given many administrative roles for licensing hemp farmers and the University of Kentucky would be charged with researching the issue.

The plan was agreed upon in the final hour of the 2013 General Assembly session. House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins says it's a good compromise.