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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB/AP) -- Kentucky's Senate Agriculture Committee has approved legislation that would license hemp growers if a federal ban is lifted on the crop.
The unanimous vote came after committee members heard from both sides on this controversial issue.
The committee reviewed the measure today, in a packed meeting. The committee's chairman, Paul Hornback, is the bill's lead sponsor. His proposal would require hemp growers to undergo criminal background checks and give GPS coordinates for their fields.
The bill would also set the rules that the state's agriculture department would use to regulate industrial hemp production in the state if and when the federal government lifts its ban on the crop.
State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer has championed efforts to re-establish hemp in Kentucky. He says it would give farmers another crop to grow and would create manufacturing jobs to turn hemp into products.
Two people who don't normally agree politically are supporting the bill -- Republican Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Democratic Third District Congressman John Yarmuth.
Paul said, "It is a crop that is legal everywhere else in the world except for the United States."
Yarmuth added, "I am convinced that industrialized hemp represents an enormous economic future for anyone who is willing to take advantage of it."
Hemp production is banned in the U.S. because the plant is related to marijuana. Hemp has a negligible content of the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high.
The bill now has to go to the full Senate and, if approved there, the House.