Frankfort, KY: House and Senate lawmakers on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 50, which seeks to permit state-sponsored research pertaining to the cultivation of industrial hemp and imposes regulations to allow for the plant's licensed production as an agricultural commodity. Proponents of the measure acknowledged that "public pressure to pass the bill helped achieve the last-minute deal."
Hemp is a distinct variety of the plant species cannabis sativa that contains only minute (less than one percent) amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Farmers worldwide grow hemp commercially for fiber, seed, and oil for use in a variety of industrial and consumer products, including food and clothing. The United States is the only developed nation that fails to cultivate industrial hemp as an economic crop, according to the Congressional Resource Service.
Senate Bill 50 "establish conditions and procedures for the licensing of industrial hemp growers by the Department of Agriculture." It designated the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission to work in concert with the state Department of Agriculture, and also tasks the University of Kentucky Agricultural Experimental Station to engage in research related to hemp production.
The bill passed the House by a vote of 88 to 4. The Senate re-approved the measure by a vote of 35 to 1.
Said Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer in a prepared statement: "By passing this bill, the General Assembly has signaled that Kentucky is serious about restoring industrial hemp production to the commonwealth and doing it in the right way. That will give Kentucky's congressional delegation more leverage when they seek a federal waiver allowing Kentucky farmers to grow hemp."
Federal legislation, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013, to amend the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana is pending in both the US Senate and House of Representatives.
Senate Bill 50 now goes to the desk of Democrat Gov. Steve Beshear, who has said he shares the concerns of the Kentucky State Police who opposed the bill, but has not indicated whether he intends to veto the measure.
Eight states - Colorado, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia - have enacted statutory changes defining industrial hemp as distinct agricultural product.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500 or Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information is available from: http://www.votehemp.org.