Before he joins the call for legalized industrial hemp, Gov. Steve Beshear wants law enforcement officials to resolve their concerns about the issue.
The issue: Some Kentucky officials believe legalized industrial hemp would be good for Kentucky's economy, but law enforcement officials are concerned that such a move would conflict with efforts to crack down on marijuana growers.
“I think we’re going to have to answer those questions before we can really move forward in the industrial hemp area,” Beshear said.
Kentucky is central in the movement to legalize hemp as an agricultural crop, largely thanks to the advocacy of Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul.
Comer has helped revive a dormant state commission on hemp -- which he chairs -- and is working on a new economic study to prove the crop’s prowess.
Hemp is a cousin and lookalike to marijuana that lacks the chemicals that cause psychoactive effects. Comer has attempted to dispel concerns from Kentucky State Police officials, pointing out that hemp and marijuana can be easily told apart. And that hemp would cross-pollinate with marijuana and reduce the latter plant’s drug effects, he argues.
Another Democrat, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, has the same stance as Beshear. Stumbo said that as a former attorney general, he is currently deferring to law enforcement's opinion on hemp.
But several in Kentucky's federal delegation approve of hemp's legalization, including U.S. Paul and Republican U.S. Rep.-elect Andy Barr and Congressman Thomas Massie. Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth also supports the issue.