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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- The movement to legalize industrial hemp in Kentucky is hitting a major roadblock. One of the most powerful men in the legislature today blasted the idea.
The message from House Speaker Greg Stumbo is essentially this -- show me the money. Stumbo says he wants to see the evidence. He's unconvinced by claims that industrial hemp could become a major cash crop for Kentucky's farmers.
"You wouldn't want to turn them away from profitable crops and ask them to grow something that there's no market for," said Stumbo. "And quite frankly, the evidence that we've seen indicates that there's not much of a market for industrial hemp."
Agriculture Commissioner James Comer is a driving force behind the hemp movement and refuted Stumbo's claim. "I don't know who's giving them their economic information, or their agriculture information. It may be Manti Te'o's girlfriend, I don't know. But it is not accurate," said Comer.
Comer insists there are companies waiting to invest millions in the hemp business in Kentucky. "Here's an industry that we can be on the forefront on, Kentucky can be a leader in. We don't want any economic development incentives. All we're asking is that government get out of the way," he said.
But Stumbo says there's no need to rush. Hemp is still illegal by federal law, and he dismisses the effort by Republican Senators Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell to lift that ban.
"I don't think Rand Paul's passed a bill since he's been up there. And McConnell's notorious for killing bills, but he hasn't passed a whole lot either," said Stumbo.
Supporters of industrial hemp did score a major victory on Thursday when the State Senate overwhelmingly passed the hemp bill. And Comer calls Stumbo's claim that he's protecting farmers "insulting."
"If they can't make a profit growing it, they're not going to grow it. And they don't need a big government agency to hold their hand and make a decision for them," said Comer.
"Kentucky farmers have a right to know what they're buying into," said Stumbo.
Stumbo has assigned the hemp bill to the House Agriculture Committee for a possible hearing. The question is; will it die there?