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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- Could Kentucky farmers be harvesting industrial hemp by this time next year? Kentucky's Agriculture Commissioner believes the state's hemp industry can now move full speed ahead -- sort of.
You've heard the expression, "It's easier to get forgiveness than permission." James Comer is applying that principle to Kentucky's fledgling hemp industry. "This is going to happen sooner than many of us thought," said Comer.
Ag Commissioner James Comer says a recent Dept. of Justice ruling on marijuana gives Kentucky at least a yellow light to move forward with hemp production.
That's with Attorney General Eric Holder saying the federal government will not challenge state laws that regulate the use of marijuana.
"The DOJ is saying that is saying that it's legal to grow marijuana in states that have a regulatory framework but not legal to grow hemp? I don't think so," said Comer.
So, Comer believes Kentucky can legally launch it's hemp industry.
If the state's Industrial Hemp Commission approves during its meeting next week, Comer plans to notify the Justice Department of Kentucky's intentions. "We're going to proceed unless the DOJ specifically tells us not to proceed," he said.
But Comer is so confident, he says he's already been in touch with hemp processing companies about moving into the state.
"If we don't hear back from the DOJ, once we notify them of our intentions, we believe that there will be processors that will announce in the coming months their intentions to locate in Kentucky," said Comer.
And Comer is disputing a recent report by the University of Kentucky, which shows industrial hemp will not create the number of jobs its supporters claim.
The study by UK economists concludes the hemp industry might produce dozens of new jobs, but not the hundreds Comer and others insist.
"I believe the three processors that we've been on the phone with over the past two days would significantly beat what the UK economic impact study predicted," he said.
Comer says the key is the auto industry. If manufacturers begin to use hemp for car interiors, the product could take off.