industrial hemp

Kentucky Hemp Research Project Looms Near

May 5, 2014
Barbetorte, Wikimedia Commons

As the first of five Kentucky hemp research tests draws near, local farmers and officials are considering the plant’s economic viability.

John Null

Kentucky universities with permission to grow industrial hemp are hitting roadblocks to obtain seeds, as planting season nears an end.

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway is offering to assist hemp supporters as the state prepares for the start of a hemp-growing pilot program this year.  The pilot projects were made possible by the passage of the United States Farm Bill that was signed into law by the President on Feb. 7.

Wikimedia commons

An amendment legalizing hemp production for research has made it into the Farm Bill that will be up for a vote soon in Congress. The amendment, co-sponsored by Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie, allows universities and state agriculture departments to grow hemp for study purposes.

Members of Vote Hemp and other groups are descending on the nation’s capital for Hemp Lobby Day to convince Congress to lift a federal ban on the plant for industrial use. 

LRC Public Information

A leading Kentucky politician is weighing the idea of legalizing medical marijuana in the state. 

House Speaker Greg Stumbo said today he's leaning toward supporting the use of medicinal marijuana and that the topic is worth debating. Legislation to legalize medical marijuana has been introduced in the General Assembly in the past but has never received the support needed to pass.

Stumbo raised the issue after Attorney General Jack Conway sent an advisory letter to Governor Steve Beshear, Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and other state leaders to clarify current law related to marijuana’s cousin, hemp. 

Two Kentucky elected officials made the case for industrial hemp Tuesday at a briefing in Washington, D.C., in an effort to lobby Congress to legalize the plant for commercial production.

Wikimedia Commons

An amendment to legalize the growing of industrial hemp for research passed the U.S. House Thursday by an eight-vote margin, the first to pass in fifty years. 

The amendment is part of the Farm Bill and allows colleges and universities to cultivate industrial hemp for academic and agricultural research purposes.  However, it only applies to states where industrial hemp farming is already legal. 

UPDATE: The House just made Massie's amendment a moot point by rejecting the farm bill in a 234-195 bipartisan vote.

Earlier: Colleges and universities would be allowed to grow hemp for academic research under an amendment to the farm bill approved by a bipartisan vote in the House on Thursday.

The proposal was introduced by Kentucky Republican Congressman Thomas Massie along with Democrats Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Jared Polis of Colorado, and passed by a 225-to-200 vote. It applies only to states that have authorized the crops cultivation.

A majority of Kentucky’s congressional representatives have been vocal supporters for easing federal restrictions on hemp, which is illegal to grow in the U.S. due to its genetic relation to marijuana. Opponents against the language argued the amendment will hamper law enforcement efforts because the crop is difficult to distinguish between its cannabis cousin.

But Massie says hemp is not marijuana, adding the amendment will help move the research forward to one day allow farmers to grow the crop legally.

"People think it’s about drugs but when they get done laughing about the word hemp and realize industrial hemp is not marijuana they realize it’s a jobs bill and an opportunity for Kentucky farmers," he says. "What this amendment does is it carves out a very small exception for universities to do research without running afoul of the drug laws. And I hope it’s a precursor to allowing all of the farmers in Kentucky to grow industrial hemp."

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.

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