On the day when the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission voted to support Senate Bill 50, another Kentucky law enforcement group announced its opposition to the measure.
Senate Bill 50, sponsored by state Sen. Paul Hornback, would legalize hemp production for industrial purposes within Kentucky. Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer has been promoting the legislation and cause heavily for many months as a new revenue source for Kentucky.
A similar bill is also pending in the state House of Representatives.
The Kentucky State Police had already opposed the legislation, but Operation UNITE joined the KSP¿Monday with its own statement.
“You have some prominent people supporting Senate Bill 50 and House Bill 33, but they are looking through rose-colored glasses if they believe hemp production would be a good alternative crop or provide an economic boom,” said Operation UNITE (Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education) Vice-President Dan Smoot. UNITE¿is an anti-drug organization in 32 southern and eastern Kentucky counties.
“Hemp is not in demand, would cause more problems than benefits and is currently not permitted under federal law,” Smoot said.
One of law enforcement’s main objections to legalizing hemp is that hemp and marijuana plants are hard to distinguish from each other on sight. Hemp contains only a fraction of THC, the chemical in marijuana that give users the high.
Monday afternoon, Comer said the two plants can’t co-exist.
“Everyone knows that industrial hemp is marijuana’s worst nightmare because it kills the toxicity in the marijuana plant,” he said in a statement. “So it is very troubling to me when I hear reports that marijuana growers and certain members of law enforcement are on the same side. The arguments from our opponents are shallow, misleading and wrong.”
Monday’s hemp commission meeting was also the first for Hornback as a member. He also serves as the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Hornback said he plans to bring the bill for a vote before his committee. That vote could happen as soon as next week, when the General Assembly returns to work. He also scheduled a Feb. 11 hearing for the hemp bill and said he expects U.S. Sen. Rand Paul to testify.
Though Hornback believes the hemp bill will clear his committee and the state Senate, he is less sure about how it would fare in the House.
SB¿50 would include require growers to be licensed, to pass background checks, supply GPS¿coordinates of the field and that they grow a minimum of 10 acres of the crop.