Push for hemp legalization continues - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Push for hemp legalization continues

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FRANKFORT, KY. (WDRB) -- Supporters say it is a job creator. Detractors says it is a law enforcement problem.

The push to legalize the growing of industrial hemp in Kentucky continues.

On Monday, the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission endorsed Senate Bill 50, sponsored by Shelby County farmer Paul Hornback, who is now a Kentucky State Senator and chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer is leading the effort to try to get Kentucky state lawmakers to allow farmers to grow the crop, if the federal government lifts its restrictions on hemp growing in the United States.

Comer says his number one priority is job creation and believes legalizing industrial hemp will help to accomplish that.

"Hopefully we will continue the momentum, " says Comer. "We have been trying to pass Senate Bill 50 and make the growing of industrial hemp a reality in Kentucky."

Hornback tells WDRB News that passage of his proposed legislation would be good for agriculture.

"It is not going to be the save all, end all," he explains, "but I think it is a good opportunity; I think it diversifies agriculture in the state, and I think it will pay huge benefits, not only in agriculture, but in manufacturing as well."

Caudill Seed Company on Main Street in Louisville is one locally owned business that would benefit from the legalization of hemp.

"As I traveled across the world in our business," Dan Caudill of the Caudill Seed Company told the commission, "I have seen industrial hemp production in China, Africa, and Europe; it is a major crop in these other countries and I think it is very important for Kentucky to be the first state to grow the crop."

Law enforcement officials have expresses serious reservations about the proposed legalization of hemp saying distinguishing it from marijuana would place an added burden on officers in the field.

Comer says he hears a different story.  "When I travel the state and talk with the sheriffs and chiefs of police in the rural communities," he explains, "they 100 percent support it, they tell me they can tell the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana."

Hornback thinks the chances of getting his legislation through the Kentucky General Assembly are good, although he admits to a few hurdles to overcome in the House.

Representatives from the Kentucky State Police did not attend Monday's meeting of the commission even though they have a seat on it.

The debate over this issue will continue in the coming weeks.

Senator Hornback has scheduled a legislative hearing on February 11 at 11am at the State Capitol in Frankfort to hear from both sides, including Kentucky U.S. Senator Rand Paul who is working at the federal level to legalize industrial hemp.

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