Ag commissioner talks hemp - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Ag commissioner talks hemp

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LOUISVILLE, KY (WDRB) -- Some say allowing Kentucky farmers to grow hemp would be great for the state's economy.

Kentucky's agriculture commissioner says bold and innovative ideas are needed to create jobs.

James Comer brought his message of legalizing industrial hemp to Louisville on Thursday in a speech before the annual meeting of the Kentucky Farm Bureau.

Comer believes hemp could be a job creator.

"We get more calls in our office in support of industrial hemp than all other issues combined," Comer told the luncheon crowd.

Hemp was grown in Kentucky before World War II.

"All we are asking is that the federal government get out of the way and allow Kentucky farmers to produce the crop," he says, "generations of Kentucky farmers grew it before us in abundance."

The federal government banned it believing it would produce a high like marijuana. Science today says that is not the case.

Comer is leading the charge to try to get the Kentucky General Assembly to legalize hemp during the upcoming legislative session which begins early next month.

When asked by WDRB News the chances of getting a bill passed by the legislature he replied, "I think they are very good."

But even some farmers who would stand to benefit from such legislation remain cautious.

"There is a lot of hemp produced in Canada," says Shelby County farmer John Wills, "but nothing like the acres we would produce here, I would need a market, I would need to know a lot more about it before I get enthused about it."

On Friday morning, the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission will meet for only the second time in a decade to finalize legislation and find sponsors for a bill.

Hemp is contained in thousands of products including auto parts which, if hemp were legal, could be made here in Kentucky rather than in other countries.

"The only way this crop is going to be grown in Kentucky," says Comer, "is that manufacturing facilities set up shop in Kentucky, that is companies that are making investments in Kentucky and that is companies that are creating jobs in Kentucky."

Right now the federal government bans all states from growing hemp.

But U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky favors legislation at the federal level to try to change that.

And Comer wants Kentucky to be ready if that happens.


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