Hemp plan passes first state hurdle

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By Molly Haines

One Owen County magistrate feels the sky is the limit for Kentucky if the federal government were to lift a ban on industrial hemp.
Fourth district magistrate Troy Bramblett attended a Monday meeting of the Kentucky Senate Agriculture Committee, where lawmakers unanimously passed Senate Bill 50, which would provide an administrative framework for industrial hemp if legalized by federal government.
The proposal has gained significant support from Kentucky lawmakers on both the state and national levels with State Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, U.S. Sen. Thomas Massey, both of whom represent Owen County, along with U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. and U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, Ky-3, coming out in support of the measure.
“What (SB) 50 is doing is allowing the (Kentucky) Department of Agriculture to go ahead and setup policies, procedures and framework for industrial hemp if the federal government were to lift the ban on it,” Bramblett said. “Kentucky wants to be proactive instead of reactive. We want to have everything in place so that if the time comes manufacturers can look at Kentucky and say, ‘Hey, they’re ready’.”
According to a press release from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, Massie is a primary sponsor of legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to legalize industrial hemp.
A farmer in northeastern Kentucky, Massie said he and other farmers in his area are looking for an alternative to tobacco since much burley production in the area has disappeared.
“It’s the dream of my wife and me to pass our family farm on to our children and for them not to have to subdivide it or cut all the timber,” Massie said. “But for them to do that, there has to be a viable economic alternative.”
Bramblett said although no one knows for certain how much a Kentucky farmer could make off growing industrial hemp, there are many possible uses for it.
“It’s not just rope and clothing,” Bramblett said. “Paper is one use, two acres of trees is one acre of hemp and anything made from petroleum, like fuel and plastics can use hemp oil. We’ll never know for sure unless we get a market established.”
James Woosley, director of the Central Intelligence Agency during the Clinton administration and member of the North American Industrial Hemp Council, debunked several myths about industrial hemp during the committee meeting.
“There are 35 industrial western countries that permit the growing of hemp,” Woosley said. “We cannot find one that has had a problem in distinguishing industrial hemp from marijuana.”
Bramblett said he understands the concern over distinguishing industrial hemp from marijuana.
“It’s a scary thing,” Bramblett said. “But there is a difference. If the federal ban is lifted Kentucky will already have all the framework in order and SB-50 aids law enforcement. Anyone who would be growing industrial hemp would be registered and where their crops are located would be sent to state police, the task force against drugs and local sheriff’s offices.”
The bill will now move to the senate floor and if passed there, will move to the Kentucky House of Representatives.
Bramblett said it’s important to remember that SB-50 would not legalize the growth of industrial hemp, but instead lay the framework for growth if and when the federal government legalizes it.
“I’m not saying I’m for or against it,” Bramblett said. “But we need to let Kentucky go ahead and be prepared in case that federal ban is lifted … Kentucky’s a suitable state for growth of industrial hemp and this could be our next big agriculture crop that saves family farms and keeps work here in Owen County.”