The Richmond Register


February 2, 2013

Mystifying smoke and mirrors

FRANKFORT — FRANKFORT – Frankfort seems suddenly enveloped in a haze. It’s not a purple haze, but it’s close.

Hemp is all the rage and those for it and those against it are raging.

For a person of my age and generation there’s something funny here, but I haven’t quite cut through all the smoke to figure out exactly what it is. But the folks once known as the law-and-order bunch are fighting the Kentucky State Police and others over whether to legalize industrial hemp.

On Monday, Republican Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who rails against environmental regulations, was trying to sell a reporter on the advisability of legalizing hemp “because it’s so green.” The same fella who ran for office a couple of years ago traveling Kentucky on a “coal-and-corn tour,” raging against President Barack Obama for declaring a “war on coal,” now says hemp is “sustainable” and a valuable bio-fuel.

It’s enough to make one’s head spin, even one who came of age during the flower child era.

Take a deep breath. Mitch McConnell now favors legalizing hemp. But perhaps we shouldn’t be all that surprised.

McConnell’s hero is Henry Clay, the Great Compromiser and the man who made the job of Speaker of the House a powerful and important position. Clay grew a whole lot of hemp in his day. He was also father of the American System which proposed federal subsidies for roads, canals and other “internal improvements” to develop agricultural markets. It sounds now sort of like a stimulus plan, but McConnell would rather you didn’t notice.

(The current Republican Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives is a notorious smoker but not hemp or marijuana. Ask Michelle Obama.)

The tea party in Kentucky favors legalization of hemp, another reason we shouldn’t be surprised McConnell suddenly sees the light.

Tea, not hemp or marijuana, is now McConnell’s favorite herbal leaf. Those who long saw McConnell as an establishment Republican appropriator have of late been wondering what he’s been smoking.

McConnell probably hopes we’re all suffering short-term memory loss.

Kentucky is a red state, but maybe it’s becoming a purple state. Given our apparent collective distaste for Obama it’s clearly not because of our political sentiments. But proponents of an even more liberal approach to cannabis have long claimed Kentucky’s real leading cash crop is marijuana.

Why couldn’t Gatewood Galbraith have taken better care of himself and managed to live to see all of this and regale us with his wit and commentary? Galbraith said he smoked marijuana to treat his asthma, and he was an early supporter of legalizing hemp.

(It reminds me of one of the impish Galbraith’s best campaign lines: “Thirty years ago, they said: ‘Gatewood, you’re 30 years ahead of your time.’ Well . . . here we are.”)

Bill Clinton is the most popular national Democrat in Kentucky, but he insists he never inhaled, which doesn’t sound like it was really worth the trouble or risk or all that much fun either. Clinton reportedly favors cigars.

Maybe state Sen. Perry Clark, D-Louisville, who won re-election despite publicly admitting to “smoking a little weed” and is sponsoring a bill to legalize marijuana for medical uses, can join forces with Comer.

Then hemp or marijuana might take their places alongside of Kentucky’s other “signature” industries like coal, Bourbon, horse racing, basketball and tobacco.

That would further prove just how wrong Obama is about us. You see, we cling to a lot more than our guns and religion. We really love quick fixes – and our vices, too.

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at

Text Only
  • Ronnie-Ellis.jpg Compromise is not that simple

    It’s tempting for a casual onlooker to wonder why the Democratic House and Republican Senate can’t make what on the surface looks like the obvious compromise on pension reform.
    The Senate passed a measure based on recommendations of a task force to move new employees into a hybrid, cash-balance plan but maintain existing defined benefits for current employees and retirees.

    March 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jim Waters.JPG Frankfort plays ping-pong with public pension transparency

    Legislation that would make the Kentucky Retirement Systems transparent for those paying its bills has danced into the spotlight during the 2014 session of the Kentucky General Assembly.
    Passage of transparency bills filed by Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Latonia, and Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, would make the “names, status, projected or actual benefit payments” subject to our commonwealth’s superlative Open Records Act.

    March 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jack Strauss-BW.jpg The case of the ghostly neighbor

    Wilbur lived in a world of fears. Everything frightened him. The full extent of his courage was to admit that he had none.
    Noises in the middle of the night, his own shadow creeping up on him and, most of all, black cats scared the wits out of him.
    So, picture his chagrin, one day, when he came home from vacation only to discover that a mausoleum had been erected on property adjacent to his home.

    March 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • Provisional concealed-carry law passes Senate unanimously

    Things are staying busy in Frankfort. Many bills are making their way onto the Senate floor from various committees. This past week several important pieces of legislation were debated and passed.
    I am particularly proud of the success we had in advocating for Kentuckians’ Second Amendment rights.
    I introduced Senate Bill 106 to allow anyone who has been granted an emergency protective or domestic violence order to receive a provisional CCDW permit from the Kentucky State Police in one business day. In some of these cases, victims need this type of protection as quickly as possible.

    March 8, 2014

  • Ronnie-Ellis.jpg 50 years makes a world of difference

    I wasn’t in Frankfort on March 5, 1964, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Abernathy, and Jackie Robinson led 10,000 on a march to the state Capitol in support of a public accommodations law.
    But a few months later, I stood in front of the “Music Hall,” site of the Glasgow Junior High School located on a street named Liberty, and watched black kids “walk up the hill” of College Street on the first day of integrated schools in Glasgow.

    March 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • 02.23 Mike Duncan mug.jpg Coal has kept Kentuckians warm this winter

    This winter, temperatures across the country dipped to historic lows. Here in our home state of Kentucky, the near-arctic climate caused increased power demand which resulted in an incredible strain on the electric grid and rising energy costs.

    March 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jim Waters.JPG Protecting citizens’ data is a no-brainer

    Target Corp. is learning the hard way: The price is steep for retailers who don’t protect customers’ sensitive financial information.
    Target’s profits fell a whopping 50 percent during its fourth quarter of 2013 as the result of a massive security breach involving as many as 110 million of its customers’ credit- and debit-card accounts, which began the day before Thanksgiving and extended throughout much of the holiday shopping season.

    March 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ike Adams Making plans for spring planting

    My brother Keith (Keeter) probably planted peas on one of those warm days last week, and I would not be at all surprised to find out that brother Steve did likewise to try to be the first two fellows in Letcher County to actually be digging the soil in their 2014 gardens.
    Keeter’s father-in-law, the late Dock Mitchell, used to get my brother to drive him a 50-mile round trip to get pea seeds and potting soil for early February planting. Dock raised mammoth melting sugar snow peas and sugar snaps around every fence on the place. 

    February 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ronnie-Ellis.jpg Cynicism, optimism both on display in Frankfort

    Those who spend little time in Kentucky’s Capitol and who read columns by cynics who cover it should be forgiven their disillusionment about how the people’s business is conducted.

    February 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ike Adams Even Scrooge would enjoy library mystery

    Saturday afternoons and evenings are usually down time for Loretta and me.
    We simply don’t get out much after we’ve used up the movie gift certificates the kids gave us for Christmas. That means we mostly go to the movies to avoid guilt trips because our kids do work hard for their money.

    February 20, 2014 1 Photo

AP Video
Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide

Should the Richmond City Commission stop rezoning property to allow construction of apartments?

     View Results