Newly sworn-in Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer is supporting a legislative package that pushes industrial hemp farming.
Under a law that took effect a decade ago, researchers can grow hemp for scientific reasons. But Comer says that’s no longer necessary, and new legislation needs to be passed.
“What that bill did was allow, gave permission to the university, the land grant university, UK, to research it. To research the different uses of industrial hemp, which really isn’t necessary because Canada is growing industrial hemp and we know what all you can make with industrial hemp,” he says.
One measure Comer supports builds on the old law. It would make the agriculture commissioner the head of the hemp commission, which was created when the law was passed. The commission is supposed to oversee hemp as a commodity, but has not previously met.
“I’ll take the lead,” says Comer. “That’s been another problem, finding someone to take the lead on it.”
Comer is also supporting legislation that failed last year. It would allow wide-scale industrial hemp farming. If it passes, Comer has promised to work with Senator Rand Paul to obtain a federal waiver to allow hemp farming.
Governor Steve Beshear says he does not support industrialized hemp farming based on objections from the law enforcement community, however, he says he’s open to talking with Comer and others about legalizing it.
“I am open to working with law enforcement and with local people to see if there’s an answer to that. But if I come down on a side on that issue it’s with law enforcement. We certainly have a huge drug problem in this country right now and in our state and I’m not going to support anything that will make it worse,” says Beshear.
Comer dismisses one of the chief concerns about industrial hemp: that farmers will sneak marijuana into their fields. Comer says the two plants can easily be told apart, and, further, the cross pollination that would occur by mixing the crops would damage the value of the crops.