Sponsored by Senator Paul Hornback, Kentucky’s hemp regulation bill gained unanimous support from the Senate Agriculture Committee on Monday. Senate Bill 50 aims to reestablish a set of regulations for the hemp industry in Kentucky, providing the state with a cash crop opportunity other than tobacco.
SB 50 will not legalize hemp growing in the state, but instead would establish a “framework of regulations,” according to James Corner, the proposal’s sponsor. Under the bill, state and local law enforcement would receive notification of licenses with exact GPS coordinates of hemp crop locations. Crops not used for research purposes would have to be at least ten acres in size.
Testifying in support of the bill were U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, and U.S. Representatives John Yarmuth, DLouisville, and Thomas Massie, R-Vanceburg.
Perhaps the biggest name, however, was former CIA Director James Woolsey, a member of the North American Hemp Council.
They faced opposition from Warren County Commonwealth Attorney Chris Cohron and Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rodney Brewer, but still won over members of the committee.
While this is a victory for the KY hemp industry, SB 50 still faces a tough road ahead, especially in the Democratic-controlled House, where law enforcement concerns may win out over pro-hemp arguments.
While marijuana and hemp and two totally different crops, many lawmakers worry that hemp farmers will try to hide illegal marijuana plants in their hemp fields, creating a system that makes it easy for the black market to flourish. However, others realize that growing hemp and marijuana together would weaken the THC content of the marijuana through cross pollination, and don’t expect it to be an issue among farmers.
Growing hemp presents a big opportunity for a new market in Kentucky. The plant can be used to make fiber, paper products, oil from the seeds, and materials that can be used to make car components.
Nine other states have already passed similar hemp legislation, and those calling for legalization feel it is important that Kentucky set up guidelines now so they are not left behind once the industry takes off.