Comer says DOJ ruling means KY can produce hemp

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky's hemp industry may be getting a boost. 

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture, Ryan Quarles announced the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 in Frankfort on Monday.

The Senate bill seeks to remove hemp from a list of controlled substances and make it an agricultural commodity. 

Sen. McConnell plans to introduce the bill to the Senate with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and a bipartisan group of Congress members including Kentucky Rep. Jamie Comer, who was a former Ag commissioner. 

Currently, Kentucky is conducting a pilot program through the Department of Agriculture to grow hemp that is being used for various products and uses.

Since 2014 hemp production has grown from nothing to more than 12,000 acres.

McConnell's bill would remove hemp from the list of controlled substances. McConnell says he does not expect the bill to be held up over concerns about hemp versus its close cousin, marijuana.

"In 2014, in getting the pilot project option in the farm bill, there was a lot of discussion about what is this. Is this the same as it's distant cousin? I think we've moved past that. I think most members of the Senate now understand it's two very different plans. There may be some continued discussion of that. But I think most everybody over the last--course of the current farm bill now understands this is a totally different plan," McConnell said.

McConnell says the bill has bipartisan support and the backing of law enforcement.

Quarles says he's not sure whether hemp can one day rival what tobacco was once to Kentucky, but he says the state is in a good position to launch the new industry if McConnell's bill passes.

A team with U of L's Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research started studying hemp for bio-fuel and energy uses in 2016. It received a permit to grow industrial hemp and kenaf after being accepted into the Kentucky Department of Agriculture's pilot program.

Researchers hope this could spur more economic development in the commonwealth.

A company that will develop medical grade cannibidol broke ground in western Kentucky on March 15. Kings Royal Biotech says the facility in Carlisle County will be the only CBD isolate extraction factory in the United States. 

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