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WHAT WE THINK: Industrial hemp is growing quickly

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The state quickly has moved from a posture of being ready to set and go. We'll see how it plays out.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said last week that he expects farmers in the state to be producing industrial hemp by next spring.

My, has that economic engine turned quickly and driven this machine, which would provide a new, indigenous cash crop for our state, to market with very little delay.

It was only a few months ago – early this year – that Mr. Comer and state Sen. Paul Hornback (R-Shelbyville) and others – were pushing for the concept of a new state law that would legalize the crop and create a structure for its implementation, should the federal government change its laws and approve that production.

Some debated whether this was a good idea, and ultimately the bill authored by Mr. Hornback had some additions to balance the fears of those who think industrial hemp would open a portal through which production of its illegal cousin –marijuana – would grow.

That may be the case, but opportunity has superseded caution, and Mr. Comer and the state’s hemp commission, with support of our U.S. senators and representatives, have stormed ahead, using a recent opinion from the U.S. Justice Department as the aperture for formal introduction of the crop.

Whereas the state had been positioning itself to wait for permission and be ready on go, now it seems the state is going and, unless somebody at the federal level steps on a brake, this momentum will not be deterred.

We like the idea of the new crop and hope that some farmers in Shelby County will take advantage of the opportunity. And we are amazed at how quickly something can happen when the public is supporting it and our leaders respond to that.

That being the case, we wonder why health-care reform continues to have so many trying to put on brakes for something so desperately needed.