Recently, this newspaper editorialized in favor of industrial hemp and suggested that I am standing in the way of its legalization.
Nothing could be further from the truth. To begin with, the current national ban was enacted by the federal government in the 1950s, and no state can reverse that action by itself. It would either take an act of Congress or a waiver from federal officials, neither of which is expected anytime soon.
Another point to make is that, back in 2001, Kentucky took steps to be ready should any aspect of this ban be lifted. This 12-year-old law calls for Kentucky to automatically adopt the federal guidelines, whatever they might be.
Recently, I asked Attorney General Jack Conway to rule whether this law is all that Kentucky farmers would need to grow industrial hemp if there were no more federal restrictions. As a former Attorney General, I believe that to be the case, which would mean that the legislation being debated would add nothing new other than an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy.
Whatever happens, it is crucial that law enforcement’s concerns are addressed. Our police officers rightly worry that industrial hemp could, quite literally, provide cover for marijuana, its genetic cousin. I am very sensitive to this possibility, which is another reason why we should spend more time studying our options.
Another concern is whether there is a strong, viable market for hemp. Estimates indicate the country only imports little, and that there is not a pressing need as there is for such crops as corn and soybeans.
However, I will say that, if all of these concerns can be met, and if the federal government grants farmers the right to grow industrial hemp, then I will work to see how we can make it beneficial for the state. Until then, though, I will not join those who, for now, are only sowing false hope. Every minute we spend on this issue is one that we lose to others that are much more pressing.
Rep. Greg Stumbo
Speaker of the House