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Legislating Hemp in Kentucky

Legislating Hemp

by Mikael Sandstrom
Kentucky Hemp Field

           The Bluegrass State has introduced a bill that would allow hemp production according to Kentucky Senate Bill 50.  The usage of hemp has been widely known as an industrial product, biofuel, it has medicinal and nutritional values and it’s an amazingly strong fiber! The reason why hemp is illegal to grow in the state is because tetrahydrocannabinol is  classified as a schedule I drug and the industrial product hemp may contain up to 1% of it.

The hemp bill would require farmers to obtain licensing to grow the plant, require them to go through criminal background checks, establish a specific duration period for the licenses, and the bill does not authorize a person to violate federal law.   The actual text of the bill reads :

“Nothing in Sections 1 to 6 of this Act shall be construed to authorize any person to violate any federal rules or regulations”

Screen Shot 2013-03-02 at 10.14.49 AMIn other words, hemp is still illegal to grow federally, even if this bill were to pass.  This bill would allow the limited industrial growth of hemp. The federal government can and  will shut down any farmer that attempts to grow the plant on a larger scale because it still violates the Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. secs. 801.

Recently, there was a debate before the state House Agriculture and Small Business Committee, where Rep. Jim DeCesare (R) called for a vote that would set of licensing and regulation for the crop but only if the federal government first passes a measure to remove hemp from its list of illegal drugs.

This bill is a step in the right direction, but still as all the states that have passed medical marijuana laws, the federal government still undermines state laws because of a drug scheduling classification set during the Richard Nixon administration.  There is no incentive for farmers to grow hemp if the federal government has the power to shut down their crop at any given point. Not to mention the loopholes and cost businesses must jump through to obtain the right licensing to grow it.  Opponents of this bill include the Kentucky law enforcement community because they claim the bill would complicate their efforts to fight against higher concentration levels of THC. But one cannot overlook the fact that each drug arrest leads to a required payment to various law enforcement trust funds.

Hemp for VictoryThe free market can determine whether hemp is truly a productive plant, but not when regulation and the federal government threaten its potential.  Businesses operate on incentives and the way the bill structures creates an incentive for Kentucky farmers to grow hemp, but also doesn’t remove the monkey from its back so they’ll be very cautious when growing hemp

The Kentucky Senate Bill 50 allows farmers to grow industrial hemp, which is a great step in the right direction, but not without consequences brought to you by the federal government.  Until we clear the mislabeled drug classification of hemp, farmers won’t be able to unleash their growing potential and won’t be incentivized to get into the hemp farming business.