Lexington, Ky – Senator Mitch McConnell is endorsing the efforts of Kentucky Agriculture Secretary James Comer to legalize the cultivation and production of industrial hemp.
And on Thursday evening, Lexington’s Urban County Council voted unanimously to approve a resolution supporting legalization and regulation of hemp in Kentucky.
In a statement issued by his Washington office, Sen. McConnell said, he reached the decision after discussing the issue with fellow Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Commissioner Comer.
“I am convinced that allowing its production will be a positive development for Kentucky’s farm families and economy. Commissioner Comer has assured me that his office is committed to pursuing industrialized hemp production in a way that does not compromise Kentucky law enforcement’s marijuana eradication efforts or in any way promote illegal drug use. The utilization of hemp to produce everything from clothing to paper is real and if there is a capacity to center a new domestic industry in Kentucky that will create jobs in these difficult economic times that sounds like a good thing to me,” McConnell said.
Since taking office more than a year ago, Commissioner Comer has pushed to get industrial hemp back into production in a state that once led the nation in hemp production.
That move has been taken to the halls of the state legislature as a bill has been introduced in both the House and Senate that would allow farmers in Kentucky to raise the crop once again — in the event that federal restrictions are lifted.
“When the most powerful Republican in the country calls to discuss your issue, that’s a good day on the job,” Comer said of McConnell’s support. “Leader McConnell’s support adds immeasurable strength to our efforts to bring good jobs to Kentucky.”
In a display of how the issue is winning bi-partisan cooperation, Congressmen John Yarmuth (D) and Thomas Massie (R) are confirmed to testify alongside U.S. Senator Rand Paul and Commissioner Comer in support of Senate Bill 50, state Senator Paul Hornback’s legislation on industrial hemp.
“Our federal delegation is showing tremendous leadership,” Comer said. “They recognize this is not a partisan issue. It’s about jobs. And we will continue to push forward to make sure Kentucky is first in line for them.”
Adding to this momentum, the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce today voted unanimously to support SB 50 after hearing arguments on its behalf from state Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer and Senator Hornback.
SB 50 will be heard in the Senate Agriculture Committee on Feb. 11, 2013 at 11 a.m. EST.
Recently the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce voiced its support for the legislation as well. A statement on the organization’s website read, “The Chamber’s policy council and board of directors reviewed the issue, considered arguments for and against supporting legislation. After a lengthy discussion with Commissioner Comer and further discussion among the board members, the Kentucky Chamber Board adopted the following position with regard to industrial hemp production: The Kentucky Chamber supports exploring the commercialization of industrial hemp in Kentucky. Provided there is an adequate regulatory framework adopted to oversee the production and cultivation of industrial hemp, the Chamber supports legislation to position Kentucky as a leader in the production and commercialization of industrial hemp.”
Comer said that organization’s support demonstrates that the hemp issue is more than just an ag issue.
“We are elated that the Chamber of Commerce came out in support of it, so I think that gives a lot of credibility from a group not affiliated with agriculture, but its primary purpose is economic development. It shows that bill has economic development potentials and goes way outside the realm of agriculture,” he said.
Last November, the Kentucky Hemp Commission met after a decade of dormancy. One member of that commission, Brian Furnish, who is a tobacco farmer, former general manager of the Burley Tobacco Cooperative and current president of his own company, the International Tobacco Trading Group, said he knows the plant will grow well here and much of what is utilized to grow tobacco can be used with hemp.
“Hemp was king before tobacco was king, as far as a crop, and the thing I like about it is it can be grown on marginal land. You don’t have to take your best land and plant hemp. For a lot of farmers who have small acreage and grow tobacco, they need to keep that ground for tobacco. As far as equipment is concerned, you really don’t have to do a lot to modify equipment for harvest,” he said.