Jan. 9, 2013 —
For those readers who may be thinking of writing letters to the editor or posting negative comments on Facebook, please read further about this public policy issue.
First, we want to make it abundantly clear that hemp and marijuana are not the same.
Yes, both are varieties of cannabis sativa and both are illegal crops in this state and in the U.S.
But the hemp plant has less than one percent of THC, the chemical that makes someone high if they smoke or otherwise ingest it.
Marijuana, on the other hand, can have THC content as high as 20 percent.
One researcher says you could smoke a truckload of hemp and not get anything except a sore throat.
State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer had created quite a stir by reviving the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission and advocating the legalization of industrial hemp production in Kentucky.
James F. Hopkins, author of A History of the Hemp Industry in Kentucky, wrote that we once led the nation in industrial hemp production and that Kentucky hemp fibers were in demand for rope, sailcloth and rough fabrics used to wrap bales of cotton and to manufacture pants.
Industrial hemp was grown in Rowan and many other Kentucky counties before and during World War II because of the need for rope and other hemp products in the war effort.
Comer maintains that hemp, unlike tobacco, can grow on the same piece of land, over and over again, because growers strip the fibers from inside the stalks and leave the plants to rot, returning nutrients to the soil.
He believes hemp as a cash crop would give a financial boost to Kentucky's farmers and could have an even greater economic impact by creating manufacturing jobs.
Hemp itself cannot be grown in the United States without a federal license but hemp products are sold legally in forms of paper, cosmetics, lotions, auto parts, clothes and animal feed.
"The real economic impact of creating jobs will be in manufacturing products from hemp," Comer said. "Creating manufacturing jobs and helping farmers at the same time would be a win-win situation."
Some police agencies have expressed concern about the cultivation of industrial hemp because it is similar in appearance to marijuana.
However, plant scientists say hemp always grows much taller than marijuana.
In our opinion, the growing of industrial hemp should be legalized in Kentucky. Farmers need a cash crop and others need manufacturing jobs.
At the same time, we remain opposed to the legal cultivation of marijuana.