Hornback optimistic for federal hemp changes

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Senator/farmer says visit to Washington leaves him believing change in law could come this year.

By Todd Martin

After helping lead the charge for policy change on industrial hemp in Kentucky, state Sen. Paul Hornback (R-Shelbyville) took his campaign to Washington D.C., last week, and returned expressing optimism about what he heard there.


 “It went really well,” he said of the trip. “Of course we met with all of our congressional representatives and also with representatives from the Department of Energy, Department of Agriculture and [the] Obama administration. The lady we met with at the Department of Energy was actually even wearing a hemp dress.”

Kentucky passed a law earlier this year that makes growing industrial hemp legal if it is legalized by the federal government.

Hornback, who traveled with a contingent that included Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer, said he knows that nothing happens fast in Washington, but he outlined three ways Kentuckians could find themselves planting hemp as early as next year.

“Three things could happen,” he said. “It could come as an executive order, or there are bills in both the House and Senate that are gaining traction and could pass. And the Farm Bill is coming up, and it could have an amendment added to it.”

No one they met with, Hornback said, showed any reluctance toward a change.

“We met with {House Leader} John Boehner [R-Ohio] for quite a while, and he was very encouraged,” Hornback said.

“I believe something could happen this year, and we could have plants in the ground back next year.”

This trip was the first of its kind, Hornback said.

“Other states have passed similar legislation, but a trip like this is something that no other state has done,” he said. “We just need to keep this fresh in their minds.”

The one group that Hornback said the group didn’t get to meet with was the Drug Enforcement Agency.

“The DEA didn’t have time to meet with us, and that was a little disappointing,” he said. “They have the same issues as law enforcement in Kentucky did [with the hemp’s physical resemblance to marijuana].”

But now, Hornback said, residents of the commonwealth will just have to wait and see what approach Washington might take.

“In June, the commissioner [Comer] and I will meet with the Hemp Commission and decide our next step,” he said. “Do we start a letter-writing campaign, and who do we write to? We’ll have see how the Farm Bill and the other legislation moves.”

But, Hornback said, he remains optimistic.

“To me, everything is going well,” he said. “I was very encouraged by the reception we received, and I believe things are going to keep moving forward.”