House Speaker Greg Stumbo has painted himself into a corner in regard to the industrial hemp issue, putting himself in the awkward position of embracing contradictory arguments in his continued opposition to the measure.
Stumbo has said all along that he is concerned legalizing industrial hemp will make it more difficult for Kentucky State Police to do its job to eradicate marijuana. He fears hemp fields could be used to camouflage marijuana crops, despite the fact that the bill provides that the location of hemp fields would be registered with GPS accuracy with the state and inspected on a regular basis.
(And the “cover crop” argument is itself a red herring, because no one interested in growing marijuana would want to be within miles of a hemp field, for the same reason that no farmer in his right mind would grow feed corn and sweet corn next to each other.)
This week, however, he says Kentucky does not need to pass an industrial hemp bill, because the state’s current law simply mirrors federal law. If Congress legalizes the crop, then Kentuckians could automatically begin growing it, so there is no need to pass another bill.
When one examines the two arguments next to each other, it quickly becomes apparent the Speaker is trying to have it both ways.
If Stumbo is concerned about hemp being used to further some illicit activity, it would seem that he would want to see the state establish some sort of framework for policing the crop. On the other hand, if he believes the law is not necessary because the state will follow whatever Congress does, then it does not seem like his concerns about hemp are bothering him very much, at a time when U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Mitch McConnell have introduced a bill in Congress to legalize it.
The popular hypothesis among Frankfort observers is that Stumbo’s concerns about Senate Bill 50 have nothing to do with hemp, marijuana, federal law or any of the many arguments he has presented against the measure in recent weeks. Instead, many argue he is merely attempting to deny a political victory by Agriculture Secretary James Comer — who has been the legalization effort’s most ardent supporter and is rumored to have an eye on the Governor’s Mansion in 2015.
All of that is speculation, but if any of it rings true, Stumbo might wish to reconsider his tactics. The Speaker is becoming widely viewed as the single person standing in the way of a House floor vote on a bill that has the support of two-thirds of Kentuckians. At a time when the public is growing increasingly frustrated with gridlock and deadlock, Stumbo’s continuing one-man stand against the industrial hemp bill offends those with democratic principles. The people want the bill to succeed or fail on its own merits, not due to political machinations.
At this point, any victory he can obtain over Comer in this fight will be a Pyrrhic one that will damage the Stumbo brand across the state.
The people want a vote. Speaker Stumbo should not continue to deny them.
— The Floyd County Times