industrial hemp

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."

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.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo announced Monday that hemp legislation won't be going any further this legislative session. 

The Courier-Journal reports the bill has been assigned to the Rules Committee. Stumbo told the newspaper "the calendar won't allow us to consider any bills that are in the Rules Committee."

Monday is the 26th day of the 30 day session. Monday and Tuesday are devoted to bills that have cleared both chambers, while the final two days of the session are reserved for overriding any gubernatorial vetoes.

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