The Richmond Register

Local News

February 14, 2013

Senate passes industrial hemp bill

FRANKFORT — FRANKFORT — If the Republican-controlled state Senate gets its way, hemp could once again grow tall in Kentucky fields the plant inhabited for years.

The Senate passed a bill Thursday to authorize a regulatory “framework” for growing hemp if the federal government — which current bans growing the plant because it’s biologically akin to marijuana — legalizes hemp production or grants the state a waiver.

The bill passed 31-6 with four Republicans and two Democrats, mostly from southeastern Kentucky, voting no.

At the same time Thursday in Washington, Kentucky’s two Republican U.S. Senators, Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell, along with Oregon Democratic Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, introduced legislation to allow American farmers to cultivate and profit from industrial hemp.

The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013 would remove federal restrictions on the domestic cultivation of industrial hemp. It would remove hemp from the Schedule I controlled substance list and define it as a non-drug so long as it contained less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

The state measure has been a major issue for Republican Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who has campaigned loud and hard to allow Kentucky farmers to grow the crop.

Hemp used to be a major crop in Kentucky. Henry Clay was a major producer and seller of the plant, which can be used to manufacture paper, composite materials and oils for a variety of products and uses.

But after World War II, the government banned hemp because of its similarity to marijuana. Hemp has a much lower percentage of THC, the chemical that produces the marijuana smoker’s high.

Proponents say smokers can’t get high smoking hemp and that it offers Kentucky a potentially lucrative agricultural crop.

But law enforcement agencies say it is impossible to distinguish by sight between the two and say it will make their marijuana eradication efforts more difficult.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, conceded the potential market for hemp is really unknown. But he asked colleagues Thursday to “give us an opportunity to see how this will work.”

He said Kentucky must be in position to take advantage of whatever market exists should the federal government reverse course and allow cultivation and processing of the plant.

Other than Hornback, the only senators who spoke in support of the bill were Democrats.

Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, said hemp used to be an “economic driver” in Kentucky and her grandfather grew the crop in Carter County during World War II.

Sen. Kathy Stein, D-Lexington, said fears about people getting high on hemp are unfounded because it’s not strong enough.

“Industrial hemp won’t make us high, but it might make us happy,” Stein said.

Former governor and now Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, and Minority Leader R.J. Palmer, D-Winchester also spoke in favor.

But when the vote came, four Republicans voted no, and Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, passed.

All but one of the Republicans live in the congressional district represented by U.S. Congressman Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, who opposes legalizing hemp for fear it will make combating marijuana cultivation more difficult.

Rogers is the creator of UNITE, a drug education, treatment and enforcement agency, and he represents a region of Kentucky wracked by drug abuse.

Voting “no” were Sen. Chris Girdler, R-Somerset, Rogers’ district director; Albert Robinson, R-London; Brandon Smith, R-Hazard; and Democrats Ray Jones of Pikeville and Johnny Ray Turner of Prestonsburg. David Givens, R-Greensburg, also voted against the measure.

Stivers didn’t explain his reason for passing, but he, too, lives in Rogers’ district while his wife is a field representative for McConnell.

The measure now goes to the Democratic-controlled House.

Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, is a former attorney general and also lives in Rogers’ district. He has been skeptical of economic benefit claims by proponents of legalizing hemp.

“The evidence doesn’t show there’s enough of a market for hemp to overcome law enforcement concerns,” Stumbo said. “I think (the bill) will have a little tougher time down here.”

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/

cnhifrankfort.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • 7-29 YMCA-Schools.jpg YMCA, county district to provide after-school care

    The Telford YMCA is partnering with the Madison County School District to provide after-school child care for kindergarten and elementary students.
    YMCA Executive Director Dave Wallace and Madison County School Superintendent Elmer Thomas announced the partnership Monday afternoon.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • 7-29 Lucille May 1.jpg Memories bloom in May’s garden

    After realizing a story was being written about 96-year-old Lucille May, tenants of Willis Manor gathered in the lobby to share stories about her.
    Affectionately called “Mamaw” by other residents and workers at the apartment building, May has spent the four years of her residence transforming an outdoor garden that was overtaken by weeds. It’s now a thriving flowerbed, complete with interesting rocks, decorations and conversation.

    July 29, 2014 4 Photos

  • 7-29 Construction 1.jpg Water Street storm-water digging begins

    Caisson holes were drilled and then filled with concrete and steel poles Monday to create a retaining structure to shore up the Allstate Insurance building foundations' firm when excavation for the Water Street Stormwater Improvement Project begins.
    Digging for 20 ton, 6 by 7 foot concrete box culverts will begin today, if weather permits, said Jason Hart, Richmond’s director of Planning and Zoning. The culverts will help reduce the likelihood of flooding on Water Street by carrying storm water under Main Street, the CVS parking lot and Irvine Street to a stream, he said.

    July 28, 2014 4 Photos

  • 7-29 Robert Abney.jpg RPD: Bottle bomb injures man, damages neighbor’s home

    Richmond Police on Friday charged Robert Abney, 30, of Moberly Avenue, in connection with a May 30 explosion that injured Abney and damaged a neighbor’s home.
    Officers were dispatched May 30 to a residence in the 500 block of Moberly Avenue to investigate the report of an explosion.
    They found the remains of a plastic bottle bomb near a residence adjoining Moberly’s, according to an RPD news release. A wall of the occupied home was smoldering and grass was burned in the area, it added.

    July 28, 2014 4 Photos

  • 7-29 Steven Coffey.jpg Two led police on I-75 chase from Berea

    Berea Police found a man passed out and intoxicated inside his crashed vehicle on Interstate 75 Wednesday, according to a police report.
    Steven Coffey, 34, of Berea, had slurred speech and was unsteady on his feet when officers arrived at the vehicle, the police report stated. They determined he was under the influence of drugs, the report stated.

    July 28, 2014 2 Photos

  • 7-27 HeartChase 1.jpg A race to the finish line

    Sheltered by overcast sky and supported by a cool breeze, teams competed Saturday morning in the second annual HeartChase at Richmond Centre.

    July 26, 2014 6 Photos

  • 7-27 Hops 1.jpg Hops & Vine Festival raises money for humane society

    Downtown Richmond’s Hops and Vine Festival started more than two years ago with a question.

    July 26, 2014 3 Photos

  • Bill Clinton will stump for Grimes in eastern Kentucky

    Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes is again calling in the “Big Dog” in her quest to unseat five-term Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.

    Former President Bill Clinton will join Grimes on Aug. 6 for a campaign rally in eastern Kentucky, according to a campaign official who would provide no further details.

    July 26, 2014

  • 7-26 Stockyards 2.jpg Cattle farmers enjoying ‛perfect storm’

    Demand is up, and cattle are selling for record prices.

    At the same time, corn prices are down and fuel prices have stabilized.

    That adds up to a “perfect storm” for Kentucky cattle farmers, said Gary Kelly of Paint Lick as he ate lunch Friday with his brother Jimmy at the restaurant across from the Blue Grass Stockyards.

    July 26, 2014 5 Photos

  • 7-26 Fire Practice Structure 1.jpg Fire training tower going up

    A new training tower for the Richmond Fire Department is rising on Four Mile Road.

    Construction began Thursday on the four-story, steel-framed structure.

    July 26, 2014 4 Photos