industrial hemp

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.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear is allowing a bill regulating hemp in Kentucky to become law without his signature.

Supporters of Senate Bill 50 were concerned that the Governor might veto the bill after he continually expressed concerns that law enforcement groups had with the bill.

But those concerns apparently weren't enough to veto the bill, as the governor says he will let it become law.

Barbetorte, Wikimedia Commons

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.

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.

Barbetorte, Wikimedia Commons

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.

Barbetorte, Wikimedia Commons

In its second try, the Kentucky House agriculture committee approved a bill Wednesday creating a regulatory framework for growing hemp in Kentucky, if the federal government were to legalize it.

The hemp bill—championed by Agriculture Commissioner James Comer—got only one no vote in the House agriculture committee.

Last week, an ag committee meeting abruptly ended after a tense exchange among lawmakers on the hemp issue.

Several House lawmakers said they voted for the bill to help support the Ag industry and to possibly create more jobs in Kentucky.

Wikimedia Commons

Industrial hemp supporters are ratcheting up the pressure to force a vote on a stalled bill that would allow farmers in Kentucky to grow the crop if federal ban is lifted. A group led by state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer urged House Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom McKee Thursday to allow a vote on the bill. The group included a prominent northern Kentucky tobacco farmer who lives in McKee's district.

Wikimedia Commons

A Kentucky House committee chairman says he’ll scale back an industrial hemp bill to allow the University of Kentucky to seek permission to study the crop that is currently banned by the federal government. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom McKee says his amendment would have UK test hemp if it received a federal permit.

McKee said he plans to offer the amendment when the Agriculture Committee takes up the hemp bill today in Frankfort. 

Barbetorte, Wikimedia Commons

Gov. Steve Beshear says he wants law enforcement's concerns about industrial hemp resolved before Kentucky moves ahead with a push to grow the plant.

State police oppose state Republican leaders’ effort to license and regulate hemp if the federal government ever lifts a ban on it.  Beshear says the Legislature needs to weigh law enforcement's concerns carefully, given Kentucky’s horrible drug problem.