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Comer Hopes to Become Head of Latent Hemp Commission

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.

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Comer Supports Aggressive Approach to Legalizing Industrial Hemp

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner-elect James Comer is planning to support legislation to allow industrial hemp farming.

The bill has been pre-filed in the General Assembly to legalize the controversial practice. Comer supports the measure and says he will make it part of his legislative package once he takes office next week. But a federal waiver would still be required before hemp farming could begin.

Comer is prepared to fight for a waiver.

“Once the bill passes and becomes law in Kentucky, then I will go with Senator [Rand] Paul and a group of our federal delegation to Washington and try to get Kentucky to be able to have a pilot project to grow industrial hemp,” he says.

A bill that was passed and signed into law a decade ago allows the University of Kentucky to grow industrial hemp for research purposes. Comer says research is no longer necessary, and wide-scale farming will be an economic boon for tobacco growers who are looking to diversify their farms.

Comer will also support legislation to make him the head of the hemp commission. The panel was formed ten years ago as part of the legislation allowing research farming, but the panel hasn’t met or chosen a leader.

Governor Steve Beshear says he does not support industrialized hemp farming based on objections from the law enforcement community. Comer says such concerns are misguided.

“Opponents of it say law enforcement wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana. That’s like saying I couldn’t tell the difference between Johnson grass and corn. It’s not true,” he says.

Further, Comer says concerns that farmers would grow marijuana in their industrial hemp fields are unfounded, as growing the two crops in the same field would lead to cross pollination and ruin yields.

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UPDATE: Comer, Farmer Wins Primaries For Ag Commissioner

The Republican nominee for Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner will be state lawmaker James Comer, who defeated Shelby County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger in the GOP primary.

Bob Farmer of Louisville led a five-person field in winning the Democratic nomination for the seat, now held by Republican Richie Farmer. Richie Farmer is in his second and final term and is a candidate for Lt. Governor.

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GOP Ag Commissioner Candidates Support Hemp

Several candidates for Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner say they’d like to see more industrial hemp grown in the state, but law enforcement officials disagree with the proposals.

The commonwealth was once a leading producer of hemp, which can be used for paper, textiles and other products. Proponents say it could help bring revenue to Kentucky.

However, Kentucky State Police Lt. David Jude says law enforcement does not support more hemp growth, since the plant is easily confused with its cousin … marijuana.

“There’s just a small difference between the plants, of which I can’t describe that. As far as us enforcing it, it’s going to create issues as to what is a legal plant and what is an illegal plant,” he says.