Kentucky’s Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer said Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement last week of changes in the Justice Department’s marijuana policy could mean that the state can move ahead with industrial hemp farming. Louisville’s WDRB reported that Comer intends to forge ahead with industrial hemp in hopes that federal policy will continue to mellow with regards to marijuana.
“This is going to happen sooner than many of us thought,” said Comer. The state’s industrial hemp commission intends to meet next week and decide whether to proceed with hemp farming in Kentucky. Comer is sanguine enough about the outcome that he is already courting hemp processing companies in hopes that they will do business in the state.
Hemp and marijuana are both species of the plant Cannabis sativa L, but marijuana contains high amounts of THC, the psychoactive chemical that produces a “high” in users. Hemp does not contain enough THC to get users high, but both species of Cannabis are illegal to grow and cultivate in the U.S., except in the 20 states that have legalized medical marijuana for medical use or Colorado and Washington, which have also made marijuana legal for recreational use.
Hemp is grown for its oil, seeds and fibers, which Comer believes will re-invigorate Kentucky’s agricultural economy. He is eager to move forward.
“The DOJ is saying that is saying that it’s legal to grow marijuana in states that have a regulatory framework but not legal to grow hemp? I don’t think so,” said Comer to reporters. “We’re going to proceed unless the DOJ specifically tells us not to proceed.”
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R) issued a statement supporting Comer on Wednesday.
“I support Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer in his efforts to move forward with the production of industrial hemp in the Commonwealth,” Paul wrote. “This fight has always been about jobs and providing another opportunity for Kentucky’s farmers, and I expect the Obama Administration to treat all states equally in this process. I will continue to fight at the federal level to enact legislation to secure this new industry for Kentucky.”
The Kentucky state state legislature passed a measure earlier this year legalizing hemp production in the state. Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear withheld his option to veto, saying, “I strongly support efforts to create additional legal cash crops for our farm communities. At the same time, we have a tremendous drug problem in Kentucky, and I want to make sure that we don’t do anything that will increase that drug problem. I still share the same concerns our law enforcement officers have about the impact hemp cultivation may have on our drug eradication efforts.”
Watch video about this story, embedded below via WDRB:
[farmer steadying hemp plant in soil via Shutterstock.com]