Hemp supporters preparing full court press to legalize crop in K - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Hemp supporters preparing full court press to legalize crop in Kentucky

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky is preparing to put on a full court press to allow farmers in the state to grow industrial hemp. The effort could begin in Washington DC as early as next month.

Over the weekend, the bill that would put the structure in place to grow hemp in Kentucky became law without Gov. Beshear's signature.

But hemp supporters say his lukewarm support should have minimal impact on their effort to obtain a federal waiver to grow what they hope is the next big cash crop.

This is video of a hemp farm in Australia. Those pushing for the crop say we could see scenes like this in Kentucky as early as next year.

"I believe that 2014 is a realistic goal. That would give the federal government several months to review everything," said Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer.

Gov. Steve Beshear allowed the hemp bill to become law without his signature, citing state police concerns that the crop could mask marijuana fields.

"I strongly support efforts to create an additional legal cash crops for our farm communities. At the same time we have a tremendous drug problem in Kentucky and I want to make sure we don't do anything that will increase that drug problem," said Beshear in a statement issued by his office.

Supporters say the governor's lukewarm support should not hamper their efforts since the bill had overwhelming support in the General Assembly.

"We're dealing with relatively uncharted territory. I think it's going to be more important that the congressional delegation is strongly behind it," Rep. John Yarmuth of Louisville.

"It would have helped if he had signed it, but I don't think it will hurt that much," said Comer.

Comer says a delegation from Kentucky could make its case to federal officials in Washington as early as May, the week after Derby.

"Hopefully they'll see that there is a high level of demand for this crop, it's very economically viable, it's a new opportunity for our farmers and it could lead to job creation," he said.

But the federal government has granted just one hemp waiver, less than one acre in Hawaii for research. And that was 10 years ago. So how realistic are Kentucky's chances?

"I think the atmosphere is changing and I think with enough congressional support, I would think there's a moderate chance we can get it done," said Yarmuth.

Gov. Beshear's has not said whether he will actively support the waiver campaign.

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