Aug. 23, 2012 — Kentucky politicians from both parties hammed it up Thursday at the Kentucky Farm Bureau Ham Breakfast, calling for the legalization of hemp and for passage of a farm bill to help drought-stricken farmers.
The annual breakfast at the Kentucky State Fair always brings out the politicians, but this year’s featured a press conference by Republican Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul calling for an end to federal restrictions on growing hemp, a biological cousin of marijuana. Paul even said he was wearing a shirt made of hemp which he ordered online from Canada.
State Democratic senators Robin Webb, Grayson, and Joey Pendleton, Hopkinsville, joined them along with Republican state Sen. Dan Seum.
Paul has co-sponsored federal legislation to end federal restrictions on the crop which was once widely grown in Kentucky and which Comer said would likely be the state’s third-highest revenue crop if legalized.
Later, U.S. Congressman John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, said the idea is worth study but added that congress has been unable to pass more important legislation and legalizing hemp would “be way down on the priority list.”
Gov. Steve Beshear said he’s “open to the idea but I know that law enforcement has some very serious concerns about the similarity to marijuana and what it might do if you legalize industrial hemp to their enforcement actions on illegal drugs.”
Webb said law enforcement fears they can’t distinguish the two, especially from the air, but she said there “would be enough boots on the ground” along with a state permitting process that would take care of the problem.
Comer said his agency “is already set up to regulate” hemp and with GPS mapping and permitting, the state can identify legal crops of hemp for law enforcement.