Beshear Reacts to Hemp, Religion Bills

Mar 27, 2013


Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear says he still has concerns about the only bill to get a veto over-ride in this year's legislative session and doesn’t know if he’ll allow hemp legislation to become law. 

The so-called religious freedom bill gives stronger legal standing to people in court who claim the government infringed on their religious beliefs. Opponents fear someone's claim of religious freedom could undermine civil rights protections for gays and lesbians.

Beshear told Kentucky Public Radio the bill's language is too broad and leaves room for unintended consequences.

“Are we going to end up in lawsuits all the time because for instance somebody that we’ve got in jail says, ‘Well, it’s against my religious beliefs to eat meat or to eat this or to do that. And you’ve got to provide me with special clothes or it’s against my religion to wear orange.’ There’s just such a wide range of things this could really mess with,” Beshear said.

He says when he vetoed the measure, he was echoing concerns from a number of groups including the Kentucky League of Cities and the Kentucky Association of Counties. More than a dozen other states have similar laws.

Beshear is also unsure about the hemp legislation that House and Senate leaders made in a last-minute deal. The legislators agreed on a compromise bill to license farmers to grow hemp. 

Licensing would be done by the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission, which is under the state agriculture department’s control. 

Beshear says he can't say yet if he will veto the legislation or sign it into law.

"It was like at 11:45 last night and we didn't have a copy of it, so I haven't really seen it yet,” he said. “But as I say, you know, we're going to take a good objective look at it.”

Law enforcement has been against legalizing industrial hemp because the crop closely resembles marijuana.  Police fear it could hamper eradication efforts.