Feb. 15, 2013 —
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, conceded the potential market for hemp is really unknown. But he asked colleagues Thursday to “give us an opportunity to see how this will work.”
He said Kentucky must be in position to take advantage of whatever market exists should the federal government reverse course and allow cultivation and processing of the plant.
Other than Hornback, the only senators who spoke in support of the bill were Democrats.
Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, said hemp used to be an “economic driver” in Kentucky and her grandfather grew the crop in Carter County during World War II.
Sen. Kathy Stein, D-Lexington, said fears about people getting high on hemp are unfounded because it’s not strong enough.
“Industrial hemp won’t make us high, but it might make us happy,” Stein said.
Former governor and now Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, and Minority Leader R.J. Palmer, D-Winchester also spoke in favor.
But when the vote came, four Republicans voted no, and Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, passed.
All but one of the Republicans live in the congressional district represented by U.S. Congressman Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, who opposes legalizing hemp for fear it will make it more difficult to combat marijuana.
Rogers is the creator of UNITE, a drug education, treatment and enforcement agency, and he represents a region of Kentucky wracked by drug abuse.
Voting no were Sen. Chris Girdler, R-Somerset, Rogers’ district director; Albert Robinson, R-London; Brandon Smith, R-Hazard; and Democrats Ray Jones of Pikeville and Johnny Ray Turner of Prestonsburg. David Givens, R-Greensburg, also voted against the measure.
Stivers didn’t explain his reason for passing, but he, too, lives in Rogers’ district while his wife is a field representative for McConnell.