Kentucky State Sen. Joey Pendleton (D-Hopkinsville) prefiled a bill for the 2012 legislative session that would set up a structure for licensing state residents to grow and/or process industrial hemp.

If passed BR261 would, “require persons wanting to grow or process industrial hemp to be licensed by the Department of Agriculture; require criminal history checks by local sheriff; require the department to promulgate administrative regulations to carry out the new sections; require the sheriff to monitor and randomly test industrial hemp fields; assess a fee of five dollars per acre for every acre of industrial hemp grown, with a minimum fee of 150 dollars, to be divided equally between the department and the appropriate sheriff’s department; require licensees to provide the department with names and addresses of any grower or buyer of industrial hemp, and copies of any contracts the licensee may have entered into relating to the industrial hemp.”

From colonial times through the early 1800s, Kentucky was a leading hemp producer in North America. Many economists contend reestablishing hemp production in the Commonwealth would provide an economic boon for an agricultural sector decimated by declining tobacco sales.

The University of Kentucky Agriculture Department Cooperative Extension website describes industrial hemp and its uses.

Industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa) is a fiber and oil seed crop used for a wide variety of products. Hemp fibers have been used to manufacture hundreds of products that include twine, paper, construction materials, carpeting, and clothing. Seeds have been used in making industrial oils, cosmetics, medicines, and food. This fiber crop also has potential as a cellulosic ethanol biofuel. Currently all hemp products sold in the U.S. are imported or manufactured from imported hemp.

China leads the world in hemp production.

Why are all hemp products sold in the U.S. imported? Because federal law prohibits farmers from growing hemp without a DEA permit; a permit nearly impossible to obtain.

“Since 1970, the federal Controlled Substances Act’s inclusion of industrial hemp in the schedule one definition of marijuana has prohibited American farmers from growing industrial hemp despite the fact that industrial hemp has such a low content of THC (the psychoactive chemical in the related marijuana plant) that nobody can be psychologically affected by consuming hemp. Federal law concedes the safety of industrial hemp by allowing it to be legally imported for use as food,” Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) said last May when he introduced H.R. 1831, legislation that would end the federal prohibition on domestic hemp.

In fact, the federal government possesses no Constitutional authority to regulate the cultivation of a crop within a state’s borders. It stands among those numerous and indefinite powers left to the states respectively, or to the people. In the same way numerous states defied federal law and created medicinal marijuana programs, Kentucky could rightfully nullify the federal law and allow for the cultivation of industrial hemp.

When I first heard about Pendleton’s bill, I thought perhaps the state legislature was on the cusp of taking a bold stand against the feds and acting in the best interest of Kentuckians.

Sadly Pendleton’s proposed legislation does no such thing.

“The new bill states that Kentucky law on hemp will not stand in conflict with federal regulations. It also bows to federal definitions of allowable THC content in hemp rather than establishing our own standard, as the earlier bill did,” David Adams, executive director of Kentucky Knows Best said.

In other words, the bill sets up a bureaucracy to regulate an activity that the state has no intention of allowing unless the benevolent federal government grants its permission. Adams said Pendleton told him he had to include language to “clarify that the act does not authorize any person to violate federal law” in order to get the bill passed.

Here’s an idea for Kentucky lawmakers:

Stop asking permission where none is required.


Mike Maharrey

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