Feb. 11, 2013 — The pitch was the same but an all-star cast of salesmen went before the Senate Agriculture Committee Monday advocating passage of a bill to authorize regulation of industrial hemp in Kentucky.
Senate Bill 50, sponsored by the committee’s chairman, Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, won unanimous approval, that in itself a minor surprise as two members thought to have questions about the bill, Sen. Sara Beth Gregory, R-Monticello, and Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville voted for it.
Testifying in support of the bill were U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, and U.S. Representatives John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, and Thomas Massie, R-Vanceburg.
Perhaps the biggest name, however, was former CIA Director James Woolsey, a member of the North American Hemp Council.
Together they appeared to be too much political firepower to overcome the objections of Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rodney Brewer and Warren County Commonwealth Attorney Chris Cohron — at least in the Republican-controlled Senate.
However, later Monday House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, indicated the bill may face a tough challenge in the Democratic-controlled House to overcome law enforcement concerns.
Woolsey ridiculed Brewer’s fears that marijuana growers might try to “insert” the illegal and much more potent plant into legal fields of hemp.
Such a marijuana grower, Woolsey said, “would have to be uninformed about botany or high on marijuana” to try that.
Advocates say hemp will cross-pollinate with marijuana, weakening marijuana’s THC content — the chemical ingredient that gives pot smokers their high. That, Woolsey and others say, discourages marijuana growers from using hemp as camouflage.
Brewer and Laura Sudkamp, of the KSP laboratory, counter that while hemp may weaken marijuana, the same cross-pollination process will increase the THC potency of hemp. Brewer said smoking hemp can produce a high — it just requires more of it.