LEXINGTON, Ky. - State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says a bill to allow the growth of industrial hemp will soon be filed in the Kentucky General Assembly.
Commissioner Comer is working with Republican Sen. Paul Hornback on the legislation, which is expected to be filed next week. Hornback is also the newly appointed chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
“It’s always good when the chairman of the committee sponsors the bill that will begin in that committee,” says Comer.
Representative Terry Mills has already pre-filed an industrial hemp measure in the state House, but Comer says the new bill will more clearly define the regulatory role of the Department of Agriculture.
“This is an industry that will begin from scratch so we want to make sure that all of our I’s are dotted and all of our T’s are crossed.”
Hemp is currently classified as a Schedule I drug because of its similarities to marijuana, but the amount of THC in hemp is too low to cause the “high” that marijuana can.
Comer has spent the past several months voicing support for industrial hemp, including Thursday at a meeting of the Lexington Forum. He's trying to get law enforcement officials on his side, but Comer says the hemp decision ultimately rests with General Assembly.
“Whether they support it or not, the legislators are the lawmakers. They’re the ones that make the laws and the state police will abide by the law. So I wish everybody was on board, but at the end of the day my job as Ag Commissioner is to help farmers and to create jobs in rural communities. And this bill will do that and hopefully we can get it passed.”
An economic impact study conducted by the University of Kentucky on the crop’s market potential is expected to be ready in early February.
If the measure passes the Kentucky legislature, Comer says he will next focus on getting industrial hemp reclassified at the federal level.