Whitesburg KY

House leader proposes amendment to save industrial hemp legislation

House Floor Leader Rocky Adkins proposed an amendment late Tuesday that he believes could revive legislation intended to allow Kentucky to quickly license hemp growers if the federal government ever lifts a ban on the plant.

Adkins’ proposal would involve the University of Kentucky in hemp research and would revamp the Kentucky Hemp Commission to include the Kentucky State Police commissioner and the UK agriculture dean as co-chairs along with the state agriculture commissioner.

“I would hope that we could keep an open mind over these next few days,” Adkins said. “I know there are parts of it that people won’t like; there are parts of it they do.”

The hemp legislation has been hotly debated this year in Frankfort. House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Adkins’ proposal seems to be “a path forward” but that he will have to take a closer look before deciding whether to support it.

Stumbo had said Monday that the industrial hemp bill appeared to be languishing, although proponents of the measure insisted it’s not too late to revive it in the waning days of the session.

The House and Senate began a 1 ┬ČO week break when they adjourned Tuesday night. They’ll reconvene on March 25 for the final two days of the session. However, conferees are expected to work through the break to try to reach an accord on the hemp bill.

Hemp thrived as a crop in Kentucky generations ago, but has been banned for decades by the federal government after it was classified as a controlled substance.

The original hemp proposal has already cleared the Senate and made it through a House committee. Agriculture Commissioner James Comer has said the crop could be an economic boon for Kentucky. Besides creating another crop for the state’s farmers, Comer said hemp could lead to manufacturing jobs that produce products ranging from paper to cosmetics.

But the bill has been unpopular with law enforcement officials. They say hemp could be used to camouflage marijuana, which has identical leaves but far less potency. Hemp has a negligible content of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high.

Under Adkins’ proposed amendment, the state’s hemp commission would be attached to the University of Kentucky for administrative purposes and would establish a 5-year research program and would seek a federal waiver to allow the state to grow hemp on demonstration sites.

The Kentucky State Police would be the agency designated to issue licenses to hemp farmers, who could qualify for tax credits on income from the sale of hemp and on the purchase of equipment used to grow or process hemp.

The legislation is Senate Bill 50.

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