Spending plan contains protection for Kentucky's hemp project
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The trillion dollar spending bill passed by the U.S. Congress last week contains a special gift for Kentucky.
The new national budget could boost the state's emerging hemp industry.
The spending bill contains a provision that prohibits the Drug Enforcement Agency from interfering with production of industrial hemp.
"Yes, there's no doubt it's going to be good for Kentucky," said State Senator Paul Hornback, a working farmer and a big supporter of industrial hemp.
He says the language placed in the bill by Sen. Mitch McConnell and Congressman Tom Massie, seems to clear the way for Kentucky's hemp industry.
"I think it could change the whole game in Kentucky," he said.
This year, Kentucky successfully planted and harvested its first industrial hemp crop since just after World War II; five research projects licensed by the Kentucky Dept. of Agriculture.
But the re-launch of Kentucky's hemp industry was almost grounded when the DEA briefly confiscated Kentucky's hemp seed imported from Italy.
Next year, that should not happen.
"This just gives us greater protection for the participants of our program and for the life of the the program itself," said Adam Watson, the coordinator of the Agriculture Dept.'s industrial hemp program.
Kentucky plans to expand its research program next year, and Hornback believes the state can begin to license commercial hemp production sooner rather than later.
"That's another step forward. That's one of the little pieces to the pie that we needed to have completed," he said.
Watson says hemp is still considered a Schedule I narcotic, so it will take even more federal action for Kentucky to be able to go all out.
"Unfortunately, we're still waiting at a federal level for there to be more dramatic action so that the status of industrial hemp can be changed, so it can be handled just like any other ag-commodity," said Watson.
But Hornback says this is a good signal for processing companies waiting to locate in Kentucky.
"They want to be legal because they don't want to invest that money and then be shut out for some reason, so this is a very important piece of that pie," said Hornback.
President Obama is expected to sign the bill as early as this week.
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