Out of the Weeds: Industrial Hemp Bill Passes in Kentucky

Hemp advocates are rejoicing as Kentucky has passed legislation to allow the agricultural production of industrial hemp, which is currently classified as a Schedule 1 drug because of its relation to its psychoactive cousin, cannabis.

The bill made it through just before the legislative session was about to expire in an 88-4 vote. According to the Huffington Post, ” Under SB 50, Kentucky’s Department of Agriculture would oversee the state’s hemp commission, which would license future farmers. Research functions would be passed to the University of Kentucky, and the Kentucky State Police—a primary opponent of the measure—would be given significant enforcement duties. SB 50 would give law enforcement responsibility for conducting background checks on applicants, monitoring registered industrial hemp fields and performing random tests of industrial hemp.”

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear (D) now must approve the bill. He has expressed concerns over legalizing hemp farming in the past. If Beshear approves the bill, there’s still the issue of federal regulations, which classifies the plant as an illegal substance alongside more dangerous drugs including heroin and cocaine.

But, the SB 50 bill has federal support including backing from Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who also said he would take action to get federal support for a waiver from the Drug Enforcement Administration on industrial hemp.

While it’s not legal to grow industrial hemp in the U.S., it is legal to sell and use hemp products such as soap, clothing, plastics and food. Much of the hemp sold in the U.S. is grown in Canada or China.

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Image:C.G.P. Grey