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Kentucky’s legislators are priming themselves to take advantage of a big federal push to legalize industrial hemp.
On Monday, state Sen. Paul Hornback (R-Shelbyville) will welcome Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Reps. John Yarmouth (D-KY) and Thomas Massie (R-KY), Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and former CIA Director R. James Woolsey to testify to the Ag Committee in support of his Senate Bill 50, which proposes administrative framework to allow growing industrial hemp in the state.
This is on the heels of Rep. Massie’s federal legislation filed Wednesday that would require the federal government to respect state laws regarding the growing of industrial hemp.
Before it was outlawed by the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937, Kentucky was a leading producer of industrial hemp. Hemp is thought to be too close to marijuana and would cause police issues when trying to tell the two apart.
Hemp has less than 1 percent of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, compared to 5 to 15 percent in marijuana.
Hornback has said several times this year that the decision is purely economic.
““It’s a huge economic issue. So many times we miss out on opportunities because we're not in the position to take advantage of them.
“What this bill does –if federal legislation does legalize the growing of hemp – then Kentucky will be in position to take advantage of that opportunity and seize onto it very quickly,” he said. “This bill is about putting Kentucky in position to grow hemp, providing the federal government does allow it to happen. Kentucky sits back and waits a lot of times, to see what others are going to do. But sometimes, it's better to be first, and now we have that opportunity.”
The state Ag Committee will vote on the SB 50 Monday after the group submits its testimony. If it passes, the bill would be sent to the Senate for review.