FRANKFORT, KY. (WDRB) --A movement is underway to allow industrial hemp to be grown in Kentucky -- but a lot has to change before that can happen.
Laws on both the state and federal level would have to be revised. But legalizing industrial hemp is one of the top priorities of Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer.
Supporters say it will create jobs and help the state's farmers. "This is an historic day," says Comer, calling to order a meeting of the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission on Wednesday. It's historic because the commission has not met in more than a decade.
"We can create badly needed jobs in the manufacturing sector with this crop," says Comer. "I don't need to tell the people on this commission all of the products made from industrial hemp."
Some of the products that can be made from hemp sat on the table in the crowded conference room at the state agriculture department. They include a few that could be made in the state's four auto manufacturing plants.
One was a replacement part from a Chevy made in Canada where industrial hemp is legal. "If a Kentucky farmer had been growing this and we had molded all of these parts, our farmers would be part of a trillion dollar industry," says commission member Craig Lee.
Supporters such as Lee say hemp could become as big as tobacco once was in Kentucky, and that's good for the small farmer.
Hemp was legal until before World War II when it was thought that smoking it would make you high like marijuana. Eric Steenstra, a member of a pro-hemp group called Vote Hemp, says people should not fear the legalization of hemp. "When people hear hemp, they associate it with marijuana," explains Steenstra. "It goes back to a lot of propaganda in the 1930's and 1940's when people didn't understand what the differences were."
Comer is pushing for the Kentucky General Assembly to take up the issue at its next session which begins in January.
U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is working on federal legislation that would allow the states to grow industrial hemp.
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