FRANKFORT, Ky. - A state commission created by the Kentucky General Assembly held its first meeting in Frankfort Wednesday after years of inactivity.
The overall mood of the Industrial Hemp Commission meeting was excited optimism. State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer joined hemp activists in game planning how to make hemp a legal crop that doesn’t require a DEA permit.
Comer says the issue is his top legislative priority.
“There are already Kentucky ag processers interesting in making investments in new equipment and creating new jobs in Kentucky. So we’re serious about this and hopefully we can make this a reality in the upcoming session.”
Because of hemp’s similarity to marijuana, law enforcement agencies have opposed its production. However Eric Steenstra of the non-profit group Vote Hemp says other countries, including Canada and China, have grown hemp successfully for years.
“Any of those concerns are people who really haven’t investigated the issue yet. And when you take a look at it, farmers start growing this, there’s no problems. Nobody’s going to be able to use this to get high and it just becomes another crop like everything else out there.”
Hemp is a native crop in Kentucky and Comer says allowing its production would help create jobs for farmers and in the manufacturing sector.
The Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission just received $100,000 in funding from a private company that uses hemp seed oil and U.S. Senator Rand Paul’s political action committee. Paul has co-sponsored legislation at the federal level to reclassify hemp as a crop and not a Schedule I drug.