Mitch McConnell’s Love Affair with Hemp How the Kentucky senator picked a fight with the DEA and became one of Washington’s top drug policy reformers.
Last May, a shipment of 250 pounds of hemp seeds left Italy destined for Kentucky as part of a pilot project made legal by the 2013 federal farm bill. Kentucky farmers had long hoped for a crop that could fill the void left by the decline of tobacco, and many thought that industrial hemp, which is used in a vast array of products, could be that crop.
The hemp seeds cleared customs in Chicago, but when the cargo landed at the UPS wing of Louisville International Airport, the Drug Enforcement Administration seized it, arguing that importing hemp seeds required an import permit, which could take six months to process. If farmers couldn’t get those seeds into the ground by June 1, the entire first year of the hemp pilot program would be dashed.
The DEA would have succeeded in blocking the seeds from reaching Kentucky farmers and university researchers but for the efforts of the state’s agricultural commissioner, who sued the agency and, most improbably, Mitch McConnell.
McConnell—then the Senate’s minority leader—worked furiously to free the seeds from the DEA’s clutches and continued the pro-hemp drumbeat throughout 2014, as he campaigned for reelection. This year, as Senate majority leader, he’s taken a further step by co-sponsoring the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015. While the farm bill carved out an exception to allow hemp cultivation in Kentucky, the 2015 bill would remove hemp entirely from the list of drugs strictly regulated by the Controlled Substances Act. It would, in essence, legalize hemp production in the United States.
“We are laying the groundwork for a new commodity market for Kentucky farmers,” McConnell told me. “And by exploring innovative ways to use industrial hemp to benefit a variety of Kentucky industries, the pilot programs could help boost our state’s economy and lead to future jobs. … I look forward to seeing industrial hemp prosper in the Commonwealth.”
Yes, Mitch McConnell said that. About hemp.
To grasp how McConnell—the quintessential establishment Republican—came to champion industrial hemp, you must first understand the economics and internal politics of Kentucky, as well as McConnell’s relationship to Kentucky’s junior senator, Rand Paul. It’s also helpful to know that close to $500 million worth of hemp products produced by Canada and other countries is already sold in the United States through such stores as Whole Foods. McConnell’s move also has potential ramifications beyond the marketplace, providing a credible threat to the Controlled Substances Act since it was signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1970.
“The fact that Majority Leader McConnell is a co-sponsor of a hemp bill shows how fast the politics are changing on this issue,” said Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit group that favors reform. (Bill Piper should not be confused with Billy Piper, former McConnell chief of staff and current K Street lobbyist).
The story of how Mitch McConnell evolved on the hemp issue began in 2010. Rand Paul, a Tea Party favorite, was running to replace the retiring Jim Bunning in the U.S. Senate and spent much of the primary season blasting McConnell, who not only represented the establishment but also supported a different Republican candidate. The McConnell-Paul relationship changed dramatically after Paul prevailed in the primary and McConnell vigorously stepped in to support him in the general election against the Democratic nominee, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway.
The bond only grew when Paul came to the Senate in 2011. Paul encouraged McConnell to consider the hemp issue because it was favored by conservatives and Tea Party types, according to two sources familiar with those discussions. McConnell listened.
The other Kentucky Republican who played a role in McConnell’s evolution was Jamie Comer, the state’s newly minted agriculture commissioner. In August 2012, Comer held a news conference before the 49th annual Kentucky Farm Bureau Country Ham Breakfast—a big shindig on the Kentucky politics circuit—to announce that legalization of hemp in the state would be his No. 1 priority in the next legislative session. Paul and U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, another Kentucky Republican, were there to support Comer; each later testified in support of Comer’s measure before the state Senate agriculture committee in February 2013, along with Rep. John Yarmuth, a Democrat from Louisville.
“I engaged with Jamie Comer,” Yarmuth told me. “He reached out to me. From the beginning it’s been a bipartisan thing.”
In Washington, D.C., McConnell was approached multiple times from hemp supporters back home. After the fourth such approach, the senior senator from Kentucky turned to his chief of staff, Josh Holmes, and said, “We’ve got to look into this.”
If, like the average U.S. senator, you are unfamiliar with the botany of the cannabis plant, here’s a quick primer:
For starters, hemp is sometimes referred to as marijuana’s “cousin,” which is an unhelpful metaphor because hemp and marijuana are actually the same species, Cannabis sativa. They are simply different strains, and they are cultivated and harvested in different ways.
The cannabis plant is dioecious, which means its male and female flowers grow on different plants. This is unusual: Dioecious species—including gingkoes, willows and a few others—make up only 6 percent of all flowering plants.
Hemp is produced after the male plant fertilizes the females—something that happens almost immediately once the plants flower. Marijuana, on the other hand, is produced from the unfertilized flower of the female plant. A person interested in growing marijuana wants only female plants; a plant that shows signs of male flowers is plucked immediately, before it can mature and pollinate the females around it.
Pollen contamination is one of the chief concerns of marijuana growers, legal and illegal, because as soon as a female flower becomes pollinated, she stops making her THC-rich resin and begins focusing entirely on seed production. (Hemp is defined by Kentucky law as containing less than 0.3 percent THC; unfertilized marijuana flowers could have THC levels of 20 percent or more.)
For decades, the law enforcement lobby has peddled anti-hemp talking points that just didn’t add up. During the 2013 farm bill debate, the DEA asserted that, “It can be extremely difficult to distinguish cannabis grown for industrial purposes from cannabis grown for smoking. This is especially true if law enforcement is attempting to make this determination without entering the premises on which the plants are being grown.”
James Higdon is a freelance writer based in Louisville and author of The Cornbread Mafia: A Homegrown Syndicate’s Code of Silence and the Biggest Marijuana Bust in American History. He can be reached at @jimhigdon. Full disclosure: His father, Jimmy Higdon, is a Republican state senator in the Kentucky state legislature.
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Kentucky farmer Andy Graves recently brought his father to see the latest crop on the family farm. Moments before the 89-year-old saw the plants, he could smell them.
“When my dad walked back to see the first fields, his eyes just lit up,” Graves says. “He said the smell was so distinct. There’s no other smell like hemp.”
Hemp, a variety of the cannabis plant, once grew by the acre on the Graves’ family farm, but disappeared after authorities outlawed the crop along with its sister species of marijuana. Even though it contains nearly none of the chemical that gives marijuana its intoxicating agent, hemp has been illegal for decades in the U.S.
But Graves, who planted a small crop last year, was the first of a handful of American farmers allowed to do so under a government research program. Although his latest crop is nothing compared with the 500 acres that once stood during his grandfather’s time, it represents the beginning of a long-awaited economic revolution.
“The business that we’re talking about today is so far and above the business my father saw and knew,” Graves says.
Hemp was once a mainstay for American farmers such as those in the Graves family, but has been outlawed for generations under regulations fearing marijuana cultivation. After decades of advocacy, a boost from the growing national interest in cannabis, rapid legalization and recent bipartisan support from lawmakers, hemp could be coming back in a big, and lucrative, way.
Most people associate hemp with braided bracelets and itchy shirts worn by college students who sip organic green tea in dormitory common rooms across the country. But hemp’s biggest advocates nowadays are more interested in economics than in philosophy.
“The economics alone are enough to convince anyone,” says Eric Steenstra, executive director of the Hemp Industries Association. Despite the fact that hemp farming is illegal, the U.S. is the world’s biggest consumer of it, importing $580 million worth in 2013, with predicted double-digit percentage growth, according to Steenstra.
Hemp is legally grown in 30 countries around the world. Most of the world’s supply comes from Canada, Steenstra says. After farmers and universities started researching hemp in 1994, Canada authorized industrial production in 1998 — and it’s been paying off.
Canadian farmers are selling hemp for CAD80 cents (64 cents) per pound, while canola sells for roughly CAD18 cents (14 cents) per pound, even though the input costs are roughly the same, according to CBC News.
The marijuana used for smoking and the hemp used for other purposes are both varieties of the same cannabis plant, but different in terms of their chemical makeup and the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is responsible for inducing a high, they contain.
Canada and the European Union define hemp as containing less than 0.3 percent THC, while marijuana can contain anywhere from 10 percent to 30 percent. Generally, about 1 percent THC is considered the threshold for marijuana to “have intoxicating potential.”
When harvested, hemp can be used in a variety of ways. The seeds can be processed to create a nutrient-rich oil or a protein-rich meal, while the stalks can be turned into fiber that can be used in products such as fabric or paper.
Opponents of hemp legalization say the plants look too similar to marijuana plants used for other activities, and would give criminals an opportunity to cultivate illegal drugs in plain sight. U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, recently told Politico that the “confusion and potential commingling lends itself to an easier path for illegal marijuana growth across the country.”
However, a recent report by the Congressional Research Service outlines a few key differences. Marijuana is cultivated to stay short and bushy to facilitate as many flowers, or buds, as possible, and the plants grow close together. Hemp farmers give their plants more space and encourage them to grow tall and produce one long stalk with just a few leaves.
Above: Hemp plants are cultivated to grow much taller and thin, unlike marijuana plants meant to produce buds, or flowers. Wikimedia Commons
This approach was the most common one used for the tens of thousands of tons of hemp grown every year by American farmers once upon a time.
American farmers have been growing hemp since the late 1800s, according to the Congressional Research Service, citing the Hemp Industries Association. But state governments did have a problem with people growing the flower for psychotropic reasons and sought to restrict its recreational use.
In the 1920s, it was among a handful of regulated drugs in many states. The Uniform Narcotic Drug Act noted that “there is little or no connection between the use of hemp drugs and crime, and that consuming it in moderation “very rarely” led to violence.
The 1937 Marijuana Tax Act defined hemp, along with marijuana, as a narcotic. Although it did not criminalize its production, it did require that all farmers only grow it for medical or industrial use, and register before growing it. They also had to secure a special tax stamp.
Above: Image of a Marihuana revenue stamp $1 1937 issue from the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing Wikimedia Commons
Regardless, production still flourished. In 1943, the U.S. grew 75,000 tons of hemp fiber on a little more than 146,000 acres, and Popular Science estimated the crop size would more than double the next year.
In fact, it was a big part of the World War II effort. In 1942, a U.S. government film urged farmers to grow “hemp for victory,” after outlining how the plant had once been used for everything from the ships at sea to covered wagons of the pioneers, while typically being imported from abroad. But since sources in the Philippines and other parts of Asia were “in the hands of the Japanese,” “American Hemp must meet the needs of our Army and Navy as well as our industries.”
According to the above video, “patriotic farmers” planted 36,000 acres of seed hemp at the government’s request in 1942, with plans for more.
Production continued into the next decade, but soon petered out. By the 1950s, the federal government had imposed mandatory jail time for possession of illegal cannabis. And in 1970 came the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, which included cannabis as a Schedule 1 substance, a category defined as “drugs with a high potential for abuse,” which also included heroin and LSD.
But that didn’t stop Americans from buying hemp products. Advocates have been lobbying to bring hemp cultivation back to the U.S. for decades, and things finally seem to be picking up steam.
“It’s becoming ever more ridiculous,” says David Bronner, CEO and president of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, a longtime advocate of hemp legalization. “Nobody brings up opium when they eat a poppy-seed bagel; this is a very similar situation.”
Above: Bronner: David Bronner tends to his industrial hemp as he stages a protest inside a steel cage, in front of the White House in Washington June 11, 2012. Bronner was protesting federal policy that prevents U.S. farmers from growing industrial hemp. Bronner is CEO of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
Bronner gained notoriety in 2012 when he locked himself in a metal cage outside the White House and proceeded to process a handful of hemp plants into enough oil to spread on to a piece of bread. According to the Washington Post, police had to cut him out of the cage with a chainsaw, and he was then charged with possession of marijuana.
But things are slowly changing.
“We’ve had a lot of allies doing a lot of hard work,” Bronner says. “Plus, as marijuana itself is being rescheduled, the debate is moving forward.”
As of February, marijuana is legal for use in some form in 23 states, including two, Colorado and Washington, that allow for recreational use among adults, with Alaska and Oregon planning to join them this year. The past few years have seen marijuana brought to the forefront of policy narratives and public discussion, which has been helping raise hemp’s profile.
In 2013, a majority of Americans polled by Gallup said they were in favor of marijuana legalization for the first time ever, and their sentiments keep going strong.
“They should be separate conversations, but they are influencing each other,” Bronner says.
He’s one of many who have been advocating local production of hemp for decades now. And over the past few years they’ve gotten more and more people on board — including a few politicians.
The 2014 Farm Bill, aka the Agricultural Act of 2014, included a provision to allow some people to begin growing industrial hemp, provided it is for “purposes of research conducted under an agricultural pilot program or other agricultural or academic research,” and complies with state law.
This means that a handful of universities and small groups of farmers, including Graves, have grown their first crops this year. With special permission from the Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA, of course.
But that seems to be just the beginning. And the cause has been gaining traction.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who introduced his first bill on the subject in 2007, has been leading a bipartisan movement to remove hemp from the legal definition of “marihuana.”
This January, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore, introduced the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015, and Rep. Thomas Massiel, R-Ky., introduced a companion bill with 50 co-sponsors on both sides of the political aisle.
“Allowing farmers throughout our nation to cultivate industrial hemp and benefit from its many uses will boost our economy and bring much-needed jobs to the agricultural industry,” Paul said in a press release last month.
And farmers such as Andy Graves certainly hope that’s true. While he knows the economic benefits of hemp, he’s also quick to point out that he takes a spoonful of the nutritious oil every day.
The family farm used to grow tobacco, but its owners ultimately decided against it more than 15 years ago.
“We realized that we were promoting the use of a product that could kill you,” he says. “Hemp, on the other hand, is nothing but good.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Southern Oregon marijuana growers want to ban industrial hemp production from the region out of fear that hemp may pollinate their crops and render them worthless.
Some outdoor marijuana growers want industrial hemp cultivation to be limited to eastern Oregon – far from their lucrative marijuana crops. At the very least, they don’t want hemp in Josephine, Jackson and Douglas counties.
Compared to Oregon’s marijuana legalization movement, the effort to launch an industrial hemp industry in Oregon has been an understated one propelled by a small but passionate group of advocates. When one of them, Edgar Winters, of Eagle Point, got a permit this month to grow industrial hemp on 25 acres in the heart of the state’s outdoor marijuana growing region, his neighbors were alarmed.
Allowing industrial hemp in an area known for churning out high-grade marijuana could undermine the industry, growers argue.
"You don’t come into the middle of cannabis growing country and try to put up a hemp farm unless you don’t know about it, unless you really don’t know how far hemp pollen can travel," said Casey Branham, a Jackson County medical marijuana grower who supports industrial hemp but wants it grown elsewhere in the state.
"It basically makes the medicine worthless," he said.
Branham and his neighbors worry hemp pollen will find its way to their unpollinated female cannabis flowers, known as sensimilla, slowing their growth and leading to seeds. The result: weak, seedy marijuana.
"No one will buy seeded flowers, period," said Cedar Grey, a Williams medical marijuana grower. "The flower market is so competitive these days. You have to have world-class flowers. Anything that is seeded is reminiscent of the 1960s or pot from Mexico. No one is interested in that at all."
And it’s not just southern Oregon’s outdoor marijuana growers who are worried about hemp’s implications. Portland’s indoor marijuana growers worry about hemp pollen drifting into their warehouses through ventilation systems or being tracked into their operations on workers’ shoes.
Shane McKee, a medical marijuana grower who owns two Portland dispensaries, said the potential complications posed by industrial hemp have caught cannabis growers by surprise.
"Nobody really saw the repercussions," said McKee.
Hemp and marijuana are different types of the same species, Cannabis sativa. But hemp lacks marijuana’s most coveted component: THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol. In hemp’s case, the gene that fires up marijuana’s high THC production is essentially turned off. So while hemp’s sturdy stalks provide fiber for textiles and its seeds can be added to yogurt and smoothies, the plant is a lousy choice for people seeking marijuana’s high.
Anndrea Hermann, a hemp advocate who lives in Canada and teaches a course on the crop at Oregon State University, said marijuana growers’ concerns are legitimate.
"Is there a risk? Yes, there is a risk to the marijuana growers," said Hermann, who also serves as president of the Hemp Industries Association and owns a hemp products company. "And I will tell you it’s a hard pill to swallow."
Winters is the first to obtain a license to grow industrial hemp from the Oregon Department of Agriculture. Another three people have applied, said Ron Pence, operations manager for commodity inspection for the agency, which oversees the state’s new industrial hemp program.
Pence said the agency has authority to limit where some agricultural crops, such as rapeseed, are cultivated. But it does not have that authority when it comes to industrial hemp.
"It would need a legislative fix," he said.
Oregon lawmakers have taken note of marijuana growers’ objections. Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, said growers peppered his office with emails once Winters’ plans became public. He said lawmakers are exploring potential solutions to protect both crops.
"Nobody wants one crop to endanger another crop," he said.
Oregon’s robust outdoor marijuana growing culture sets it apart from places like Kentucky, which also has a state hemp program. Oregon’s outdoor growers are organized, have an attorney and even a lobbyist. While Kentucky’s agriculture officials are enthusiastic boosters of industrial hemp, marijuana remains illegal.
"Marijuana growers are not so vocal" in Kentucky, said Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, a national hemp advocacy group. "They are not in a position to be able to call up their legislators to ask for a bill protecting their crops."
Winters, for his part, doesn’t see a major problem cultivating hemp near marijuana crops. He said the growing cycle for hemp is shorter than the one for outdoor marijuana and that an earlier harvest means it would not pose a threat to cannabis.
"It’s been doable all over the world," said Winters, who’s also a medical marijuana grower. "People have misconceptions about industrial hemp."
He said marijuana growers need more "education and training and knowledge" about hemp and that he plans to meet with outdoor growers to address their concerns.
He said he’s received strong criticism from marijuana growers and even personal threats since word of his plan spread.
"It’s a viable crop," he said. "There is no way we are going to be forced out of the county. I can tell you that. We are here to stay."
– Noelle CrombieRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
In 2013, SB50 became law, which authorized industrial hemp farming and production provided that Federal law authorized the same. As is being introduced in other states, a simple amendment to that legislation to remove such federal approval – will authorize hemp farming and production on a state level!
The Hemp Freedom Act would authorize farming, production and commerce of industrial hemp in the state, effectively nullifying the federal prohibition on the same. Your action is needed to move this legislation forward.
1. Get the model legislation.
2. Contact your state representative. Strongly, but respectfully urge him or her to introduce and support this bill for your state.
Contact info here: http://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/
3. Contact your state senator. Strongly, but respectfully urge him or her to introduce and support this bill for your state.
Contact info here: http://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/
NOTE – If you have a rep and/or a senator that is hostile to the idea, contact a friendly legislator in a neighboring district and urge their action.
“I live in District ___, and my (REP/SENATOR) will not take action to support Industrial Hemp Farming. Can you help?”
4. Spread the word. Share this information widely by social media, email and more.
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Some people want you to believe that the federal government cannot be effectively defied, but farmers in Colorado are proving them wrong.
While Colorado may be in the headlines for their marijuana legalization experiment, that is not the only issue in which they are effectively nullifying federal law. They are taking action against the federal industrial hemp ban as well. A Denver Post report, Colorado’s first legal hemp crop comes in amid constraints by fed laws, elaborates on this booming industry:
Legal hurdles aside, advocates are passionate about hemp’s commercial potential. The most common uses are food products and cosmetics derived from seeds and seed oil. Fiber from the stalks of hemp plants are used in clothing and industrial applications, including as a strengthening agent in concrete.
2014 marked the first year of state-authorized hemp cultivation in Colorado. About 30 growers filed applications to plant a total of 1,811 acres. But because state law does not yet require detailed reporting, no statistics exist on how much actually was planted and subsequently harvested.
Industrial hemp growers in Colorado face the possibility of prosecution for operating in violation of federal law. Still, in heroic acts of civil disobedience, they work to unleash a cash crop on society that could conceivably provide jobs and prosperity for thousands of people. Their bravery makes the feds deal with open defiance of their laws, and facilitates the effort to reform antiquated public policy toward success.
On marijuana, the feds pretty much waved the white flag of surrender. They ‘allowed’ Colorado and other states to legalize, after the states had already chosen to do so without asking for federal permission. This capitulation allows the feds to spin marijuana legalization like it is their reform, and that they deserve partial credit. In reality, it was decisive action taken by the states that forced the feds to cede power and accept inevitable reform. It worked on marijuana legalization, and it is starting to work on industrial hemp too.
The feds have already started to give up on industrial hemp prohibition as well. Last year’s farm bill contained provisions allowing states to cultivate industrial hemp for research purposes only. But, Colorado farmers are proceeding with commercial cultivation without a federal rubber-stamp of approval. Some farmers in SE Colorado even started cultivating industrial hemp before receiving the go-ahead from their state government! This the kind of bold, fearless approach that is needed to show the government who’s boss, and press the issue until eventual reforms are enacted.
So what are you waiting for? Non-compliance has got the feds on the run. Our Hemp Freedom Act is a government jobs bill that can work – by simply limiting the federal government’s negative impact on our economy! Get an initiative going now, and we can push back at the state level against the feds and their illogical prohibition on industrial hemp. Fight to bring a sustainable industry back to America, and subvert unconstitutional federal power today!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015 would remove federal restrictions on the domestic cultivation of industrial hemp.
From KTVZ.COM news sources
POSTED: 2:11 PM PST January 8, 2015
Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., introduced legislation Thursday that would allow American farmers to grow and profit from industrial hemp.
The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015 would remove federal restrictions on the domestic cultivation of industrial hemp. The bill would remove hemp from the Schedule I controlled substance list under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, and would define it as a non-drug so long as it contained less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Oregon and Kentucky are among 20 states that have already defined industrial hemp as distinct from marijuana and removed barriers to production. However, under current federal law, farmers in states that allow industrial hemp research and pilot programs must still seek a waiver from the Drug Enforcement Administration or risk raids and seizures by federal agents.
The U.S. is the world’s largest consumer of hemp, but it remains the only major industrialized country that bans farming the product.
“The U.S. ban on hemp farming is an outrageous restriction on free enterprise and does nothing but hurt economic growth and job creation,” Wyden said. “Our bipartisan, commonsense bill is pro-environment, pro-business, and pro-farmer. Congress must act to empower farmers and boost economic activity across the country. As I’ve always said, if you can buy it in Oregon, you should be able to grow it in Oregon.”
"My vision for the farmers and manufacturers of Kentucky is to see us start growing hemp, creating jobs and leading the nation in this industry again,” Paul said. “Allowing farmers throughout our nation to cultivate industrial hemp and benefit from its many uses will boost our economy and bring much-needed jobs to the agriculture industry.”
“Industrial hemp has the potential to fuel jobs and research here in Oregon, and the federal government shouldn’t be standing in the way,” Merkley said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also cosponsored the bill.
The bill text is available here.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Lexology Report: Congress temporarily de-funds US-DOJ medical marijuana prosecution but does not legalize medical marijuana
- December 30 2014
In a few short paragraphs within the 1,603-page congressional spending bill signed into law on December 16, 2014, Congress prohibited the U.S. Department of Justice from using federal funds to prosecute users, growers and distributors of medical marijuana in states that have enacted medical marijuana statutes. The full text of the de-funding rider barring the DOJ from the use of funds to “prevent. . . implementation” of state and local laws legalizing medical marijuana states:
Sec. 538. None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.
Sec. 539. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used in contravention of section 7606 (“Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research”) of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Public Law 113-79) by the Department of Justice or the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Several U.S. Supreme Court decisions have upheld prosecution of medical marijuana growers and users under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Nevertheless, the Obama Administration, as a matter of policy, has directed the DOJ to take a relaxed approach to prosecution and the DOJ has done so, except for use that impacts the DOJ’s “enforcement priorities” (e.g., preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors, preventing the revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels). This new de-funding measure now codifies that policy approach as law. (Notably, the rider does not affect IRS or Treasury Department actions relating to payment of taxes by marijuana suppliers and online banking).
The legislation, however, does not legalize medical marijuana. Rather, the federal ban on marijuana continues – i.e., both medical and recreational marijuana continue to be illegal under CSA Schedule I. And, though de-funding may affect enforcement of criminal laws in states with medical marijuana statutes, it has no effect in states that have not legalized marijuana, nor does it express any limitations on employer action on the basis of a positive marijuana test result administered under a workplace drug testing policy. Finally, the rider expires on September 30, 2015, and may or may not be renewed heading into the heart of the presidential election campaign in the fall of 2015. For all of these reasons, though significant in reflecting current legislators’ thinking at the national level regarding CSA enforcement, the mere enactment of the spending bill with this provision does not warrant adjustment to drug testing policies of employers choosing to continue to treat confirmed positive marijuana test results as positive even when the result was caused by medicinal use that is lawful under state or local law.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Dr. Bronner’s Year-End Report from the Front Lines of the Fight for Cannabis Reform and GMO Labeling
Both cannabis policy reform and the movement to label genetically engineered foods in the United States made huge strides in 2014. Major battles were won, some narrowly lost, but ultimately victory is inevitable. Our company Dr. Bronner’s has devoted significant financial, staff and other organizational resources to both movements, and it is instructive to analyze them side by side.
First on the cannabis front, 2014 saw victories in DC (Measure 71: 70 to 30), Oregon (Measure 91: 56 to 44) and Alaska (Measure 2: 53 to 47), continuing the incredible momentum from victories in Washington (Initiative 502: 55 to 45) and Colorado (Amendment 64: 55 to 45) in 2012, themselves set up by the narrow loss in California in 2010 (Prop 19: 47 to 53) that triggered the first serious national and international debate on ending cannabis prohibition. Only Florida "lost" with 58% of votes in favor of medical marijuana, 2% short of the needed 60% (Measure 2). As most Huffington Post readers understand, by any rational measure of analysis marijuana use is much less problematic than alcohol, while its prohibition has caused untold harm to otherwise productive nonviolent citizens and their families, wasting taxpayer dollars and law enforcement resources.
Dr. Bronner’s Director of Social Action, Adam Eidinger, was campaign manager for the successful Yes on 71 campaign in DC. Adam and Dr. Malik Burnett of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) alongside other stellar staff, ran an incredible campaign educating local voters as well as the country’s political elites nationally that prohibition is an unjust racist policy that disproportionately impacts communities of color. Despite blacks and whites using cannabis at similar rates, DC arrests over 8 times more black people than white people for cannabis possession. Saddling a young man with jail time and a record obviously compromises one’s future as well as tears families apart. Dr. Bronner’s contributed $100,000 directly to the campaign and $100,000 to Drug Policy Alliance, earmarked to help power Dr. Burnett’s crucial work there.
Dr. Bronner’s also contributed $100,000 each to Oregon’s effort led by the New Approach team, as well as the Marijuana Policy Project’s (MPP) effort in Alaska. The contribution to MPP for Alaska was arguably much more crucial given the relatively small overall budget and closeness of the race in a traditionally red state. However, we also gave $2 million to the Oregon Yes on 92 GMO labeling campaign, that coordinated closely with the marijuana campaign in registering and driving the youth vote, that benefitted both campaigns tremendously.
The Nation published a great article the week prior to the election that nails competing dynamics in play in the cannabis legalization movement. DC was the first legalization campaign to run primarily on a racial justice platform, and absolutely crushed it. Alaska’s campaign was based on the MPP "safer than alcohol" playbook that won in Colorado, while Oregon was run on the similar "New Approach" strategy that won in Washington state. Clearly there’s more than one way to win the fight for legalization. Looking forward to California and the four to five other states in play in 2016 we can draw from the best of all these efforts. California in particular will be important to write the model regulations that we want reflected at the national level, which will happen soon after the wins in 2016.
While the Oregon and Alaska victories are sweet indeed, victory in DC for us was the sweetest. In the recent Congressional "cromnibus" spending bill debate, the crushing DC victory helped open room for riders to pass into law that prohibit the DEA from interfering with state medical marijuana programs as well as state industrial hemp programs. These are huge long-sought victories for the movement, and Americans for Safe Access (ASA) deserves most of the credit for successfully passing the medical marijuana rider via majority vote in the Republican house over the summer. Dr. Bronner’s has been a longtime supporter of ASA, having given close to $700,000 over the past ten years. Dr. Bronner’s has also been closely involved in efforts to re-commercialize industrial hemp farming, being a longtime supporter of Vote Hemp as well as recently being a crucial partner to the amazing efforts in Kentucky that have inspired the entire Kentucky federal delegation, including Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Rand Paul, to publicly support and help make hemp farming a reality in the United States again.
Unfortunately though, DC legalization itself seemed to be the sacrificial lamb in the spending bill debate, with Congress attempting to block implementation of DC’s legalization initiative. However, DC has been so galvanized by the overwhelming mandate and outraged by Congressional meddling, that they are challenging Congress to a showdown that Congress is highly unlikely to win, and legalization will be the law of the land in DC come January. The Guardian provided a great overview of this latest struggle in their "Capital v Capitol" story. The high profile national and international political theatre of DC standing up to Congress for its right to determine its own cannabis policy is incredible.
What also makes the victory in DC extra special for Dr. Bronner’s, is that Washington Post Magazine ran a frustrating cover story on our own Adam Eidinger in January, and editorialized against Yes on 71 with weak, out of touch drug war hysteria in September. Back in January, I wrote an unpublished letter to the editor standing up for Adam and our advocacy work, which the 2014 election has now vindicated.
My January 2014 Washington Post Magazine letter to the editor:
Your cover story on local DC activist Adam Eidinger chose to inaccurately portray him as an ineffective Don Quixote figure, belittling the causes he fights for as well as our company. As explained to the reporter, we cap executive compensation at five times that of the lowest paid warehouse worker, and no profits are distributed to owners for personal use. Profits not needed for business development are dedicated to the causes we support.
Adam is closely involved in how we strategically deploy resources to reform draconian drug laws that disproportionately target people of color; notably Washington, D.C. has the highest arrest rate for low level marijuana violations. Adam has also effectively helped build the national movement to label genetically engineered food crops. We are fighting the chemical industry machine that has enthralled much of our country’s elites, to expose their agenda to engineer resistance to the toxic chemical herbicides they sell (Google "Agent Orange Corn" to see what’s coming next).
There were moments when Adam’s true stature was portrayed, but ultimately was undermined by a shallow and frivolous anti-activist caricature.
As a sign of the political and cultural turning of the tide, it’s also worth noting that the New York Times called for ending cannabis prohibition nationally in a series of well-written editorials over the summer.
Pivoting to the fight for GMO labeling, the movement in its modern resurgent form is only a few years old, driven largely by widespread and growing alarm at ever-increasing amounts of toxic pesticides applied to genetically engineered crops. See for example Tom Philpott’s article "How GMOs Unleashed a Pesticide Gusher" in Mother Jones. Over 99% of GMO crops in US soil are engineered to produce insecticide and/or tolerate heavy herbicide use, which like overdosing antibiotics in factory farms has rapidly created resistance in target weed and insect populations. GMO crops are being saturated with ever more toxic pesticides, including neonicotinoid insecticides banned in the EU due to suspected link to massive bee die-offs and Colony Collapse Disorder. While this is great for the chemical industry that both sells the GMOs and the pesticides used on them, our environment and collective health are paying the price. 64 other countries have the right to know if their food is genetically engineered, but the chemical and junk food industry have spent tens of millions of dollars to make sure Americans are kept in the dark.
In the face of record spending by pesticide and junk food companies, the GMO labeling movement gained huge momentum and strength from narrow losses to enact mandatory GMO labeling in California in 2012 (Prop 37: 49 to 51) and Washington in 2013 (Initiative 522: 49 to 51), and set up major victories in 2014. In May, Vermont became the first state to enact mandatory labeling, and Jackson county in Oregon banned planting of GMO crops due to GMO sugarbeet pollen contaminating and ruining neighboring fields (Measure 15-119: 66 to 34). Maui also banned genetically engineered crops because of massive pesticide spraying (See Maui County Genetically Modified Organism Moratorium Initiative: 51 to 49). And statewide in Oregon, the Yes on 92 campaign came within five hundredths of one percent of winning (Measure 92: 49.97 to 50.03), showing friend and foe alike how easily we can win in a bigger 2016 presidential electorate. An underfunded effort in Colorado did not fare well, unfortunately, but it serves as an important movement lesson for 2016.
Dr. Bronner’s was a leading financial contributor to all these efforts, and also devoted significant staff time and other organizational resources, especially to the Oregon effort. Two great articles to review in particular are Katie Ayers’ "Oregon Poised to Mandate GMO Labeling" in Reader Supported News that really dives into the heart of the matter; and also this thorough piece in the Register Guard "Even If Defeated GMO Issue Is Not Going Away."
Vermont, Jackson county and Maui are all currently being sued by the pesticide and junk food industries, and these industries are frantically lobbying Congress to pre-empt states’ rights to enact mandatory labeling of GMOs. They know that the nationwide movement to label GMOs continues to surge and grow in strength even as their major GMO traits continue to fail and pesticide use goes through the roof. The USDA audits chemical inputs every five years for major crops, and in spring of 2015 will publish updated data on herbicide and insecticide use on GMO corn that will force even the most biased journalists and scientists to confront the truth that GMOs amount to a massive pesticide industry boondoggle that is not boosting yields.
I published a popular Huffington Post blog article about major mainstream media publications running interference and covering for the pesticide industry even as EPA and USDA rubber-stamped approval for their next generation 2,4 D herbicide tolerant crops. We expect, as with the movement arc of ending cannabis prohibition, that more and more major media will wake up and get a clue; but those that don’t are just another obstacle on the way to inevitable victory.
The bottom line is, the GMO labeling movement is on fire and surging. We will likely prevail in one to two New England states legislatively in 2015, and as necessary in a major state in 2016 via the initiative process, as we keep bringing a bigger, better and more strategic fight. Like the narrow loss on the cannabis front with Prop 19 in 2010 in California, which educated and moved the debate forward setting up subsequent victories in 2012, the GMO labeling movement is poised to rack up major wins in 2016. But we are as likely to achieve victory through the market by 2016, as we are unleashing and fueling major cultural and market drivers and expect more and more food companies to flip and accept mandatory labeling just as they did in Europe. Chipotle is already disclosing and moving away from GMOs, as is Cheerios, Grape Nuts and other high profile brands. Whole Foods is mandating GMO labeling of all products by 2018 in its stores and many major mainstream retailers have refused to carry GMO salmon if or when approved.
Our experience with the movement to end cannabis prohibition over the past 15 years shows how much faster and stronger the modern movement to label GMOs is growing in a much shorter time. People are waking up that we have to transform our agricultural policies and dietary choices and eat more sustainably if we want to feed future generations, which requires as a first step that citizens are properly informed and empowered to make wise choices.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Congressmen, senators work to greenlight hemp growing
Published Dec 20, 2014 at 12:01AM / Updated Dec 20, 2014 at 07:52AM
SALEM — The Oregon Department of Agriculture is nearing a deadline to create rules for hemp growers that will give the state regulatory power over
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Portland liberal Democrat who has spent four decades working to change federal drug policy, paired with Rep. Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican, among others, to create a major shift in the federal government’s view of hemp early this year.
The two helped put a provision into the 2014 Farm Bill that separated marijuana and hemp for research purposes, effectively creating an outlet states could use to create hemp programs.
Oregon Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Beaverton, also put forward a similar provision.
“It’s not every day you see Earl Blumenauer working with Thomas Massie,” said Eric Steenstra, president of the hemp advocacy group Vote Hemp. “It was a collaborative effort and they supported each other. It was good. We need more of that.”
But the unlikely congressional pairing didn’t stop there.
Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky put a provision in last week’s $1.1 trillion spending bill to strip from federal agencies the power to prosecute hemp.
“I think you’ve got a situation here where, it might surprise some people, but there have been efforts to deal with cultivation of hemp,” Blumenauer said in a phone interview Friday. “Allowing it to happen has taken hold in both” Kentucky and Oregon.
The Drug Enforcement Administration engaged in a battle that irked Kentucky officials when the agency seized 250 pounds of seeds that were being imported through Kentucky’s Department of Agriculture to launch its hemp program in May.
Blumenauer, who was directly involved in fighting for the Oregon ballot measure that legalized recreational marijuana, pointed out he looks for bipartisan support for all of his bills.
“I guess McConnell picked it up and ran with it because it’s popular at home. I wish more people would pick it up and run with it because it is popular,” Blumenauer added.
Oregon is close to finishing a drawn-out process of creating rules for hemp growers to follow as the state looks to regulate a plant that has been illegal federally for four decades.
— Reporter: 406-589-4347,Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Last updated: December 04. 2014 11:07AM – 1102 Views
The Kentucky Department of Agriculture is now accepting applications from the state’s farmers who would like to participate in an industrial hemp pilot project the beginning of next year.
The application deadline is Jan. 1. Logan County farmers can find and fill out an application at http://www.kyagr.com/hemp.
Agriculture Commissioner James Comer announced earlier in the year that he is creating industrial hemp pilot projects in Kentucky. The pilot projects were made possible by the passage of the United States Farm Bill that was signed into law by the President on Feb. 7.
Commissioner Comer and Attorney General Jack Conway have been in direct communication for a couple of months regarding hemp production in Kentucky, and senior staff in both of their offices are reviewing language for pilot programs that ensure compliance with the parameters outlined in the federal farm bill.
The Kentucky Department of Agriculture Industrial Hemp Program is the result of the passage of two separate laws: Kentucky’s Senate Bill 50, passed by the Kentucky General Assembly in 2013, and the 2014 Federal Farm Bill signed into law Feb. 7, 2014. Senate Bill 50 exempted industrial hemp from the state controlled substances act but also mandated that Kentucky follow all federal rules and regulations with respect to industrial hemp. The Federal Farm Bill allows state departments of agriculture, in states where industrial hemp is legal, to administer industrial hemp pilot programs in conjunction with universities for the purposes of research and development.
Industrial hemp is a variety of Cannabis sativa and is of the same plant species as marijuana. However, hemp is genetically different and distinguished by its use and chemical makeup. Industrial hemp refers to cannabis varieties that are primarily grown as an agricultural crop. Hemp plants are low in THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, marijuana’s primary psychoactive chemical). THC levels for hemp generally are less than 1 percent. Federal legislation that would exclude hemp from the legal definition of marijuana would set a ceiling of 0.3 percent THC for a cannabis variety to be identified as hemp. Marijuana refers to the flowering tops and leaves of psychoactive cannabis varieties, which are grown for their high content of THC. THC levels for marijuana average about 10 percent but can go much higher.
Some estimate that the global market for hemp consists of more than 25,000 products, including: fabrics and textiles, yarns and raw or processed spun fibers, paper, carpeting, home furnishings, construction and insulation materials, auto parts, composites, animal bedding, foods and beverages, body care products, nutritional supplements, industrial oils, cosmetics, personal care and pharmaceuticals.
An estimated 55,700 metric tons of industrial hemp are produced around the world each year. China, Russia, and South Korea are the leading hemp-producing nations. They account for 70 percent of the world’s industrial hemp supply.
Canada had 38,828 licensed acres of industrial hemp in 2011. Canadian exports of hemp seed and hemp products were estimated at more than $10 million, with most going to the U.S.
Because there is no commercial industrial hemp production in the United States, the U.S. market is largely dependent on imports, both as finished hemp-containing products and as ingredients for use in further processing. More than 30 nations grow industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity. The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not allow industrial hemp production. Current industry estimates report that U.S. retail sales of all hemp-based products may exceed $300 million per year.
To contact Chris Cooper, email email@example.com or call 270-726-8394.
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In industrial hemp, the state of Rand Paul and Wendell Berry sees a solution to its post-agrarian ills
November 12, 2014 5:00AM ET
Mike Lewis, a farmer who employs veterans on his farm, was recruited by Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer to join the state’s hemp crusade.
MOUNT VERNON, Ky. — Mike Lewis doesn’t want to talk about marijuana. He is an organic farmer, the son of a retired federal agent, and he follows the law.
"If you’re gonna talk about drugs, you’re going to have to leave my property," he said to the group of entrepreneurs and activists who had traveled to central Kentucky to see his farm, one of the few legal, private hemp operations in the country. The threat sounded serious, and with it, Lewis had everyone’s attention. "We’re here today to talk about building an industry."
The most progressive cannabis program in the United States won’t get anyone stoned. But while officials in Colorado and Washington state await the results (and reap millions in taxes) of their drug-legalization experiments, conservative Kentucky has launched an ambitious and industrious project devoted to the ancient, controversial plants. Marijuana remains illegal here, but with industrial hemp, a non-psychoactive cannabis varietal with dozens of commercial uses, the state sees a different kind of salvation, an old-fashioned agrarian answer to a variety of 21st-century American ills.
Seven university-affiliated grow sites in the state, spread from the Mississippi valley in the west to the Appalachian east, are researching hemp’s potentials. Eastern Kentucky University is studying bio-fuels. Manufacturers are talking up hemp-based car parts and hempcrete, a biodegradable construction material. Bio-chemical engineers in Louisville will test the plant’s capacity to remediate the city’s toxic dumps. In struggling Appalachia, where thousands of families were wiped out when the federal government ended its tobacco subsidies, small farmers are wondering whether hemp can fill an economic vacuum. Wherever Kentucky has a problem, it seems industrial hemp has an answer.
The initiative was launched by the state’s agriculture commissioner, Republican James Comer, who ran for the office (an influential position in a predominately rural state), largely on his hemp visions.
"We thought he was crazy," recalled Holly Harris, who served as general counsel for the state GOP during Comer’s 2011 campaign. "The party chatter was, ‘This guy is crazy.’" But after Comer won that race — the only Kentucky Republican elected to statewide office that year — Harris was hired as his chief of staff and witnessed what she described as the most wild and memorable political experience of her career.
The conventional wisdom was that hemp was a political nonstarter, a fringe concern better fit for liberal states like Colorado or Washington, where marijuana prohibition was already being phased out. The conservative-led coalition that gathered around Comer’s agenda destroyed those assumptions. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul was instrumental, recruiting a delegation to testify in support of the state’s legalization measure; the group included Louisville Democrat John Yarmuth, libertarian conservative Thomas Massie and former Central Intelligence Agency director James Woolsey. When Paul spoke at the hearing on Senate Bill 50, he wore his favorite button-down hemp shirt. In Washington, then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, also of Kentucky, amended the 2014 farm bill to permit the plan under federal law. As the legal and political hurdles fell, Comer revived the long-moribund state Industrial Hemp Commission, a committee of stakeholders and experts responsible for getting the industry off the ground. Funding arrived from RandPAC (Paul’s political action committee) on the right, and from a standard hippie culture staple, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. The two organizations provide the entirety of the commission’s budget.
Kentucky is not entirely alone in the legalization movement. Lawmakers in many rural states are frustrated by the fact that, while it’s perfectly legal to sell hemp products made in other countries, federal law denies independent farmers the right to grown their own. In recent years, more than a dozen states have passed legislation that, to varying degrees, allows colleges, universities, and state agriculture agencies to research, grow and market the plant. Comer, however, took the additional step of licensing farmers like Lewis as state contractors, something no other state has done. In Colorado, farmers are allowed to grow the crop, but “it’s more like don’t ask don’t tell,” said Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, the industries chief lobbying group. Kentucky, he said, “pushed the envelope and are letting farmers do commercial activity as research.”
It’s been less than five months since Lewis planted his first seeds, and he said that he is currently in talks with more than a dozen manufacturing companies interested in processing hemp for a dizzying range of commercial and industrial applications, including health supplements, building insulation and bedding for Kentucky thoroughbreds. He said that a plastics company, which did not want to be named, is interested in processing hemp fibers into durable car paneling, a practice that European automakers have been using for years.
"We saw there is real opportunity," Lewis said. "We want to work with these people to create products, to drive dollars into the local economy." At this point, with so much energy and promise, Lewis "suffers from the oppression of opportunity." His biggest problem, he said, "is managing expectations."Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Some of the harvest from industrial hemp crops grown in Kentucky as part of a pilot program will be tried out for stable bedding.
Seeds were released to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture in time for late-May and early-June planting.
The trial involved the planting of 13 different varieties to assess their performance and the quality of the fiber produced.
It is understood most of the fields have just been harvested in the trial, which has used the skills of tertiary institutions across Kentucky.
Researchers intend to assess the crop for a variety of uses, including as stable bedding for horses. Some of the crop will be tested for use in textiles and biofuelsRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
University of Kentucky researchers today harvested the university’s first hemp crop in decades – and one of the first legal crops used in research trials.
“It was a good growing season for many crops, not just hemp,” said David Williams, UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment agronomist and co-project lead. “Precipitation was excellent this year and more than adequate for growth. The only downside to the growing season was that we planted a little bit late, but I don’t think that had much effect on the crop.”
UK’s research plot, planted May 27, was one of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s pilot studies to reintroduce hemp production in Kentucky. UK’s study was conducted in conjunction with Eastern Kentucky University and Kentucky State University.
“This crop will yield significant data about production techniques, which varieties do best in Kentucky and which of the many uses of hemp are most likely to succeed here,” said Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who has championed the cause of returning hemp production to the commonwealth.
Kentucky was a national leader in hemp production before the crop was outlawed in the United States due to its similarity to marijuana. Many agricultural advances have occurred since then, so research trials were necessary to determine the crop’s viability in an ever-changing agricultural economy.
UK researchers used a sickle bar mower to harvest the crop in the same manner that hay is harvested.
“Our plan was to simply lay the crop on the ground where the elements will begin to break down or ‘ret’ the hemp,” said Rich Mundell, co-project lead and an agronomist in the Kentucky Tobacco Research Development Center. “Because the hemp was very tall (about 10 feet) we felt the sickle bar mower would do a better job than a more commonly used disc mower.”
UK’s research project included 13 different varieties managed for either fiber production or seed production.
After the harvest, researchers will analyze and compare the different varieties to find one that’s best suited for the state and then present the results to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
WASHINGTON—Editor’s Note:This story is the sixth part in a series of articles and video documentaries that surveys the state of the legal marijuana and hemp industries.To read the previous article on hemp research in Kentucky, go here.
Ken Anderson had managed to transport 286 pounds of hemp seeds to Lexington, Kentucky from Italy. That’s when the Drug Enforcement Agency seized them at a UPS air terminal in Lexington, Kentucky, riling agricultural officials, farmers and politicians in a state that is still searching for a crop to replace the maligned tobacco leaf.
Kentucky agricultural officials were awaiting the seeds in anticipation of commencing hemp research projects in collaboration with universities and private growers under federal legislation signed in February by President Obama: Section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill.
Although federal law classifies hemp as a Schedule I controlled substance, the Farm Bill carved out an exception—authorizing institutions of higher education or state agriculture departments to study the growth, cultivation or marketing of industrial hemp in states where such activity is permitted.
“It amazes me that the DEA spent resources to intercept my seed going into the Kentucky Department of Agriculture," said Anderson, founder and CEO of Original Green Distribution, which is providing seed and infrastructure to support American hemp. “They spent a ton of money confiscating seed going to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture when they didn’t have a single agent in front of a recreational [marijuana] dispensary in Colorado. That blows my mind. What a waste of resources."
The feds could have seized the Italian hemp seeds before they had cleared the interior of the United States. But U.S. Border Patrol dropped the ball—it should have never let in the seeds without the proper federal licensing and import certification, a DEA executive assistant told Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance President Russ Crawford, according to a May 5 email he sent Anderson. Crawford had wanted to know if DEA would let into the United States seeds from Canada.
On May 13, the DEA offered to release the Italian seeds to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA), provided the state agency applied to register as an importer of controlled substances. But a DEA official, Joseph Rannazzisi, declared the Farm Bill did not authorize any activity by private growers and suggested the state provide the names of the institutions of higher education to which it planned to distribute seeds.
The very next day, KDA responded to DEA by filing a lawsuit against the agency, which is a part of the U.S. Justice Department.
“Defendant DEA/and or other Defendants are violating the provisions of the Farm Bill by engrafting upon it additional regulatory and bureaucratic requirements that were not contemplated or enacted by the U.S. Congress," according to the lawsuit, which argued the Farm Bill excluded hemp seeds from the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act. “There is no provision in the Farm Bill or in any regulation in furtherance of the Farm Bill allowing Defendant DEA and/or other Defendants to impose additional requirements, restrictions, or prohibitions upon an institution of higher education or a state department of agriculture that is engaged in industrial hemp cultivation as contemplated by the Farm Bill."
Following a hearing before the U.S. District Court in Louisville, Kentucky, DEA issued a registration and import permit to KDA, allowing the state agency to possess the seeds, according to court records. Anderson said the Italian seeds were released on May 23.
According to KDA records, seven growing sites received the impounded seeds, including Kentucky State University, Murray State University and Western Kentucky University.
Threats of Criminal Prosecution
But DEA still made it clear in a letter on May 22 that it had plans “to criminally prosecute and seize, under the federal Controlled Substances Act … hemp plants grown by the private farmers who have entered written contracts with KDA to carry out the pilot projects," several Kentucky farmers disclosed in a request to intervene in the case and enjoin DEA from prosecuting—or destroying plants grown by—them.
The proposed interveners included Brian Furnish, a farmer who had expected to receive seed to begin a pilot project in conjunction with the University of Kentucky, and seven other farmers who had entered memoranda of understanding with KDA.
The Farm Bill “clearly shows Congress’ assumption and intent that private farmers be utilized by state agriculture departments to carry out the pilot projects," lawyers for the farmers stated in June 12 court papers. “To read the law as requiring the officials and employees of a small state agency like KDA, who are not themselves active farmers, to leave their offices in Frankfort and cultivate the hemp seed would be absurd and would completely frustrate the intent of Congress."
A senior federal judge, John Heyburn, later denied the motion to intervene and for the preliminary injunction, explaining the request for the injunction was moot for reasons that were stated on the record during a hearing.
DEA never filed a formal answer to KDA’s complaint. Ellen Canale, a spokeswoman with the Justice Department, a named defendant in KDA’s lawsuit, didn’t return numerous phone calls and emails seeking comment on the case.
DEA agreed “that as long as the farmers were, under contract (Memorandum of Understanding) with the KDA or universities to engage in the pilot crop program, that they would be considered agents of the KDA or universities under the 2014 Farm Act and exempt from the provisions of the Controlled Substance Act (i.e. not subjected to criminal investigation or prosecution)," said Richard Plymale, a veteran lawyer in Kentucky who represented the farmers, in an email.
DEA also agreed to quickly issue import permits for hemp oil seeds that were being held in Canada, he said. According to KDA records, the Canadian seeds were released on July 2.
Plymale, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney with the Justice Department who currently practices law with Frost Brown Todd LLC, said he appeared in Heyburn’s chambers on June 18 and read a portion of the DEA’s threatening letter to the farmers, to which the judge responded, “I thought we had settled this."
When Heyburn asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Schecter who appeared for the hearing by phone if the matter had been resolved, he answered in the affirmative, Plymale said.
Last week, KDA moved to dismiss the entire lawsuit.
“This dismissal is based upon the Defendant, Drug Enforcement Agency’s (“DEA") continuing agreement to assist the KDA with the KDA’s implementation and supervision of programs involved with the growth, cultivation, and marketing of industrial hemp," Daniel Morgan of the law firm McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland, PLLC wrote on behalf of KDA. “The KDA acknowledges that the DEA has been cooperating with the KDA and the DEA has manifested its expressed desire to assist the KDA with industrial hemp projects."
Searching for New Cash Crop
Industrial hemp contains little THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky) last year introduced a bill that would exempt hemp from the Controlled Substances Act. Katie Moyer, an appointed member of the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission, said the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013 has bipartisan support with 49 cosponsors. Moyer said the bill only needs a few more sponsors in order to schedule a hearing on the House floor.
“Tobacco is demonized. It’s taxed into oblivion," she said in a phone interview. “They [farmers] are struggling here in Kentucky. They are trying to find a replacement to tobacco, something they can grow as a cash crop."
Private growers who have been working with KDA haven’t encountered any issues with DEA since the lawsuit was resolved, Moyer said. After the seeds were released to the KDA, farmers underwent background checks and entered agreements with the state agency, she said.
“KDA was very careful. Under the contract with the farmers … they give GPS coordinates to the fields and the farmers are required to make reports when crops are harvested, removed," Plymale said. “There is a nice gentleman’s agreement about what to do."
The agricultural community is actually hosting an event on Aug. 25 for local law-enforcement to tour the hemp fields.
“We want law enforcement to be involved with the process," Moyer said. “We try to be reasonable and consider all the issues they’ve got with it."
She said KDA has been taking samples of the hemp fields and noted most industrial hemp contains well under 0.3 percent THC, the limit specified in the Farm Bill.
According to Moyer, a hemp field in north Christian County, Kentucky is thriving with some plants likely soaring to more than 11 feet. Another field planted by Rachel McCubbin, a staff member to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), hasn’t fared as well. After the hemp was planted, the field was drenched with 4.5 inches of rain, then suffered a drought for two months, Moyer said.
“That field needless to say is not doing well," she said. “It’s not a miracle crop. It’s not going to perform miracles."Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Posted on August 15, 2014 by Peter Clausi
Ah, Kentucky: thank you for bourbon and The Derby and good basketball. Now, surprisingly, add industrial hemp to that list.
Hemp is a versatile wonder herb, currently used in food, consumer textiles, building materials, plastics, biofuel, industrial products, fuel, personal care … the list goes on and on. And unlike its cousin cannabis, it contains less than 0.1% THC, so it’s not possible to get high using hemp. It would be like expecting to get drunk by chewing barley!
Agriculturally, it’s a welcome addition to a farm, as it suppresses weed growth, does not require much care, can withstand cold temperatures down to about 23F, aerates the soil as part of a crop rotation, and is an efficient oxygen / carbon dioxide exchanger.
Hemp was a major contributor to the economy. For example, until 1883, roughly 75% of all paper in the world was made from hemp fiber. Back home, the 1850 U.S. census documented approximately 8,400 hemp plantations of at least 2000 acres. Hemp was a large supporter of the US economy, right up until 1937 when under the Marijuana Tax Act, 1937 Congress effectively banned the growing of hemp, in hysterical hearings that contained incorrect facts and or unfounded arguments.
Some blame this on Mr. Andrew Mellon (Ambassador to Great Britain, Secretary of the Treasury, and one of the wealthiest people in the country) who had large timber holdings that were subject to possible loss of market share from hemp. We’ll never know the exact politics behind the hearings, but the government (mainly through the Drug Enforcement Agency) has since had a near-maniacal opposition to hemp. And that’s a shame for the economy and the struggling farmers.
Enter Kentucky. It was once the country’s leading producer of hemp, making about 40,000 tons a year just before the Civil War. This year, Kentucky’s Agriculture Department planned to import and distribute hemp seeds for use in pilot projects at four Kentucky universities, as a stepping stone to commercializing hemp product under a federal Farm Bill and reinvigorating the state economy. The DEA seized the seeds. Kentucky immediately sued for their return, and in May, 2014, reached an agreement with the DEA to get the seeds.
The seeds are in the ground, and as of August 1 are thriving, without fertilizer or herbicides. “It’s doing just fine so far,” said Dave Williams, an agronomist at University of Kentucky. “We’ve had enough rain to keep it growing and enough heat to make it grow.” (quote courtesy of The Daily Chronic). The crops should be ready for harvest in late September or early October.
Nine states have now passed bills allowing for hemp production. Eight more have passed bills calling for its study. Hemp is booming.
As a retail product in the USA, over half a billion dollars of hemp products were sold at the retail level alone in 2012, and this at a time when the growing of hemp was still unlawful! One can only imagine the explosive growth when farmers across the country begin harvesting hemp. And as social attitudes and legislation governing cannabis become more permissive, it is not unreasonable to expect the restrictions on growing hemp to ease off as well.
Hemp is poised to be one of the biggest stories over the next decade. Find a way to safely be part of it. And remember to tip your corn mash to the Bluegrass State in thanks.
About Peter Clausi
Mr. Clausi is an experienced investment banker and corporate director. A graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School and called to Ontario’s bar in 1990, Mr. Clausi has extensive experience in finance, shareholder rights and corporate growth. Mr. Clausi has been a guest lecturer at three Ontario MBA programs, and was an instructor at the Law Society of Upper Canada’s bar admission course for over 10 years. He is scheduled to speak at the 2nd Securities Compliance for Mining Conference in September, 2014. He is executive vice-president of corporate affairs and general counsel of GTA Resources and Mining Inc.; an independent director and audit committee member of Baja Mining Corp.; and an independent director of Aldrin Resources Corp.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
After a nonsensical battle simply to get the seeds into the arms of farmers in the Bluegrass State, hemp crops are lastly on the develop.
Kentucky’s first crop of hemp in many years is claimed to be flourishing simply two months after the state formally legalized the plant genus for cultivation and analysis functions.
College of Kentucky’s plant researcher David Williams says the cultivation course of is “thrilling” and that the expertise is “very enjoyable”. “It’s numerous enjoyable to be concerned in one thing that’s new and probably potential for Kentucky farmers,” Williams avowed.
Williams says that he’ll harvest the primary crops at his faculty’s plots this September and examine the expansion price to that of 12 different varieties they’re at present rising out.
He additionally was fast to level out that the wrestle to get the seeds the place they wanted to be value them roughly a month of rising time.
“I feel we will develop bigger crops with a full rising season,” Williams defined. “We misplaced a few month.”
Researchers on the school of Murray State declare they’ve crops reaching heights of roughly 14 ft.
Whereas in Japanese Kentucky’s Rockcastle County, the Rising Warriors Undertaking planted hemp on an previous tobacco farm and has reported crops which have reached the sixteen-foot mark.
Ah sure. Hemp is on the develop as soon as once more in the South! How candy it’s!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
MOUNT VERNON, KY — Vote Hemp, the national single-issue advocacy group dedicated to re-commercializing industrial hemp, and Kentucky non-profit Growing Warriors, have partnered to organize a planting of industrial hemp in Mount Vernon, KY on May 16, 2014, as part of the nationwide grassroots education effort Hemp History Week .
The certified industrial hemp seed provided by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture will be grown as part of a research and development program in conjunction with the Kentucky State University, and marks an historic moment in the Bluegrass State after decades of federal prohibition of industrial hemp.
Grown for its versatile fiber and oilseed, which can be used to make rope, paper, building materials, bio-fuels, cosmetics, healthy food, body care products, textiles, plastic composites, and much more, hemp was once a paramount crop of Kentucky cultivated in the state as recently as the 1950′s, but was permanently banned in 1970 as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act.
The return of hemp to Kentucky’s farmland and mills is lauded by many political, agriculture and industry leaders in the state and beyond who view the burgeoning industrial hemp market as a step toward job growth and sustained economic stability in the Commonwealth.
The hemp will be sown by war veterans who have partnered with Growing Warriors to learn agriculture and farming skills and work toward creating local community food systems.
“The farming and production of industrial hemp in America just makes sense,” says Mike Lewis, Executive Director of Growing Warriors. “The important thing to note is that a hemp industry must be built from the ground up, and if done properly and responsibly it will restore some vibrancy to our communities. Fighting alongside my fellow Veterans for this crop has already made me a wealthier man as I witnessed the grit and determination that built this country play out daily and now I will be afforded the opportunity to plant this historic crop with true patriots.”
“We took on this fight at the state legislature a year ago, and who would have ever dreamed we would change Kentucky law—change federal law—and have hemp in the ground today?” Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said. “This is an historic moment for Kentucky farmers, and my hope is that industrial hemp can again be a thriving industry that presents new opportunities in agriculture and manufacturing for years to come.”
“Kentucky is leading the country toward a revitalized, lucrative and sustainable hemp industry,” says Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp. “Kentucky farmers, legislators and manufacturers have joined together to bring back hemp farming to the Kentucky landscape, knowing that hemp will bring job creation, among many other economic and environmental benefits.”
To date, thirty-three states have introduced pro-hemp legislation and twenty-two have passed pro-hemp legislation. Fourteen states (California, Colorado, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia) have defined industrial hemp as distinct and removed barriers to its production.
However, despite state authorization to grow hemp, farmers in those states risk raids by federal agents if they plant the crop outside the parameters of Section 7606 of the recent Farm Bill, due to failure of federal policy to distinguish oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis (i.e. industrial hemp) from psychoactive varieties (i.e. marihuana.)
In 2013, both the federal Senate and House introduced versions of the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, S. 359 and H.R. 525 respectively. So far in the 2014 legislative session, industrial hemp legislation has been introduced or carried over in Puerto Rico and twenty-five states: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois (carried over from 2013), Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire (carried over from 2013), New Jersey (carried over from 2013), New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Washington (two bills were carried over from 2013), West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Farm Bill , Growing Warriors , hemp , hemp cultivation , hemp farming , industrial hemp , Industrial Hemp Farming Act , James Comer , Kentucky , Kentucky Department of Agriculture , Kentucky hemp , Kentucky State University , US HR 525 , US SB 359 , Vote Hemp
by Vote Hemp
Vote Hemp is a national, single-issue, non-profit organization dedicated to the acceptance of and a free market for low-THC industrial hemp and to changes in current law to allow U.S. farmers to once again grow this agricultural crop.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Marijuana’s sober sibling “hemp” — used for millennia as a food, fuel, and fiber — returns to American fields this year in another sign of the end of prohibition.
The State of Colorado — which legalized hemp farming at the ballot in 2012 — closed the application period for hemp farmers this week, and roughly, 1,300 acres of the drought-resistant, tough, cane-like plant could be sown, reports state. America has a half-billion dollar hemp industry for hemp oil, seeds, and fiber — and that is despite a federal war on marijuana and hemp which has prevented its legal, domestic cultivation. US hemp revenue is handed over to importers from Canada and China.
- via flickr w/ cc license
- Hemp fiber
But that is ending. The massive US Farm Bill passed this year green-lights hemp research in any states allowing it, and states are lining up to do so. Even Republican know-nothing Mitch McConnell is welcoming hemp back into its former home of Kentucky.
Colorado farmers had to smuggle in seeds for this year’s hemp crop — which won’t get you high. Hemp farmers technically face felony federal marijuana cultivation charges, but that seems unlikely. A more real concern is cross-pollination.
Pollen from hemp fields can travel as far as three miles and — ironically — pollinate and destroy batches of consumer marijuana, which is an all-female crop that must remain unfertilized through harvesting. In other words, the dawn of “hemp districts” and “cannabis-only districts” seems imminent.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says it’s been a long road to bring back industrial hemp.
Kentucky lawmakers passed a bill in 2013 to allow the reintroduction of industrial hemp if the federal government lifted its ban.
Then, a federal farm bill agreement allowed pilot growing programs. Comer says Kentucky helped lead the way.
“Here we are, we passed it in Kentucky. Now other states are saying ‘Yeah, we want to do that too’. Indiana’s following suit.
Tennessee’s followed suit passing legislation,” Comer said.
However, the big challenge has been getting the hemp seeds into the country, since it has been illegal to import them into the U.S.
The federal government banned hemp several decades ago when it classified the crop as a controlled substance related to marijuana.
“Even though legislation passed in the Farm Bill to legalize it, the customs agents and border patrol and all the different federal bureaucracies
didn’t know about that, so we’ve had to educate all the federal bureaucracies,”Comer said.
In the next few days, the seeds will finally arrive to Kentucky.
They’re coming in from Europe, Canada, and possibly even China. The seeds are first arriving to a port in Chicago.
Comer says six Kentucky universities will do pilot projects on industrial hemp, including the University of Louisville.
They are hoping the projects will answer many questions.
“Like what is the cost of production per acre, what is the yield per acre, what types of invasive species may come in and harm the crop,
what types of farm equipment can we harvest this crop with, which variety of seeds grow best in which types of soil,” Comer said.
Comer says they must also determine how marketable some of the hemp will be.
Comer: First hemp crop in decades set for planting
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s first industrial hemp crop in decades will start going into the ground next month now that the pipeline for shipping seeds into the state is opening up to allow the experimental plantings, state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said Tuesday.
Comer said he expects the first batches of hemp seeds to arrive in coming days at the state Agriculture Department at Frankfort.
"We’re rapidly approaching a crucial time for the seeds to be put in the ground," he said by phone.
So far, eight pilot projects are planned statewide as part of a small-scale reintroduction to gauge the versatile crop’s potential in the marketplace and as a money maker for farmers. The first planting is scheduled for May 16 in Rockcastle County, said Comer’s chief of staff, Holly Harris VonLuehrte.
"Hopefully we can get enough seeds to have credible research data gathered by this fall," Comer said. "And next year, hopefully we’ll have enough seeds to have several processors in the state and several farmers under contract growing it."
Hemp production was banned decades ago when the federal government classified the crop as a controlled substance related to marijuana. Hemp and marijuana are the same species, Cannabis sativa. Hemp has a negligible amount of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high.
The crop’s comeback gained a foothold with passage of the new federal farm bill. It allows state agriculture departments to designate hemp pilot projects for research in states that already allow the growing of hemp.
Kentucky lawmakers passed legislation last year that allowed hemp to be reintroduced, if the federal government allows its production.
Once the farm bill allowed the experimental plantings, the next challenge was getting hemp seed into the state.
Comer said Tuesday his staff has "gone through every level of federal bureaucracy you can go through to get those seeds in."
U.S. Border Patrol officials have been cooperative as Comer’s office worked to develop a supply route to bring in hemp seeds, VonLuehrte said. The initial seeds are coming from Canada and Italy, Comer said.
State agriculture officials have helped match farmers with researchers for the pilot hemp projects. Some hemp grown will be sold for commercial uses after the fall harvest to help determine the crop’s marketability, VonLuehrte said. Some hemp will be grown purely for research, she said.
One pilot project in Fayette County will focus on hemp’s potential in medicine, she said. Gov. Steve Beshear recently signed into law a bill that allows doctors at two Kentucky research hospitals to prescribe cannabidiol to treat patients.
Several universities are participating in the hemp projects, also aimed at answering basic production questions for a crop that once thrived in Kentucky.
"It’s going to answer every question that a prospective farmer … would want to know," Comer said. "What’s the optimum date to plant? Which variety of seeds grows best on which soil? What type of farm equipment does it take to harvest this hemp?"
Comer sees hemp as a way to boost Kentucky’s economy, especially in rural areas, through crop production, processing and manufacturing. Hemp was historically used for rope but has many other uses: clothing and mulch from the fiber; hemp milk and cooking oil from the seeds, and soap and lotions.
The next goal will be to win congressional approval to deregulate hemp, he said.
"We’re hopeful that after a year or two, that it can be deregulated and treated like any other agricultural crop," Comer said.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
By Joe Corcoran
Six universities in Kentucky may now begin growing legal hemp this year. Agriculture Commissioner James Comer told Kentucky Public Radio his office has received the go-ahead from the Attorney General’s office to begin pilot projects with the plant.
Those projects were made possible by last year’s state legislation providing a regulatory framework and a provision inserted in a recent federal farm bill. Comer says his office will begin immediately to finalize regulations concerning the growth and production of hemp.
The chair of Eastern Kentucky University’s Agriculture Department, Dr. John Settimi, says one drawback is the availability of seeds since there have been no legal sources in the U. S. for decades.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The US Department of Agriculture is looking to boost imports of hemp seeds from Ukraine, hoping this will help the country’s battered economy. However, they still do not know what it will be used for.
“We are now involved in trying to figure out ways in which we might be able to use the industrial hemp seeds that are created in Ukraine in the US,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told Bloomberg in an interview Tuesday.
Ukraine is the world’s fourth-biggest producer of industrial hemp seed, the term used to refer to cannabis strains cultivated for non-drug use. Unlike another, most known type of Cannabis grown for marijuana, industrial hemp lacks that same ingredient, THC, which causes physical or psychological effects and gives smoker a high.
Industrial hemp, being one of the earliest domesticated plants known, has many uses from healthy food to making paper, textiles, biodegradable plastics, construction and even fuel.
Easy to cultivate, uses for industrial hemp are growing rapidly.
Ukraine is currently angling for aid from the International Monetary Fund, as much as $20 billion, while it has also been struggling with months of political crisis.
The Obama administration is planning to provide a $1 billion loan for the coup-imposed government of Ukraine, and is working with European allies on a broader package.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Posted: Thursday, March 27, 2014 8:17 am
By VICTORIA ALDRICH
Of all the plants that humans have cultivated throughout history, few are as versatile as hemp. Its fibers easily convert into rope, clothing and furniture material, insulation, plastics, paper and mulch. Its seeds are perfect for birdseed, hemp milk, protein powder and fish bait. Hemp oil is a cheap, nonallergenic base for paints and cosmetics. The leaves taste great in a warm loaf of bread or a salad.
One day, your Kentucky-made car may sport a hemp-based dashboard, state Commissioner of Agriculture James R. Comer told Danville-Boyle County Chamber of Commerce members Wednesday at the year’s first AT&T Public Policy luncheon.
“We successfully passed legislation to allow hemp to be grown in Kentucky this year,” Comer said, through a provision in the newly passed federal Farm Bill. “We are going to have six pilot projects at six universities.”
Since taking office in 2012, Comer has gained attention for drastic measures taken to reduce waste of funds, including monitoring employee vehicle usage through GPS systems. He also increased public accountability by publishing his office’s entire expenditure report. A critical goal this year is stimulating agricultural production and research, factors he describes as key to stimulating Kentucky’s struggling east side.
Few projects are as ambitious as a hemp cultivation program legalized at six state universities through the Farm Bill.
Each university will cultivate a specific variety, Comer explained, and focus on creating a specific finished product.
The University of Kentucky will grow an Asian cultivar to study industrial hemp production and also biomedical canniboid research.
The University of Louisville will study bioremediation techniques, and Kentucky State University will grow state heirloom seeds for industrial use in conjunction with the Homegrown by Heroes veterans program.
Murray State University will grow European cultivars for fiber studies.
Eastern Kentucky University and Morehead State University both will grow Canadian seeds for industrial and renewable energy projects.
“They will work with private-sector farmers to study production aspects and the types of products they can produce,” Comer said. “We farmers want to know what is the cost of production per acre, what is the yield per acre, what is the best time to plant, so we are very excited,” Comer said. “I perceive the hemp being grown on marginal land, on land that is currently being underutilized. You can grow it on land with a greater slope or on land where you wouldn’t grow other things.”
“Boyle County, from a historical perspective, was ground-zero for industrial production for hemp, and we’d like to be at that spot again. Can you give us a hand?” chamber member Mike Perros asked.
“What grows best in western Kentucky may not grow best in Boyle County so we have at least two good years of research that has to be done,” Comer said. “We’re making progress, and it’s not at the level some people would like, but a year ago it was illegal to grow it.”
Few agricultural endeavors generate as much controversy in the United States as hemp production, an established industry throughout the world.
Liberal and conservative backers agree on its endless industrial potential, ease of growth and lack of hallucinogenic content. Critics dislike its low THC levels compared to its notorious cousin, marijuana, and how easy it is to confuse both plants during air surveillance, the most common way police discover illegal cultivation.
“We can pretty much grow it anywhere we want to. The language of the Farm Bill requires it to be administered through a university pilot project,” Comer said.
“This was illegal a few months ago so we’ve made a giant step, but we are going to have to go through a lot of bureaucracy. We found out customs and border patrol hadn’t read the Farm Bill so we had a container of seeds that was turned around and is headed back to China. As I understand it, we have very few seeds in Kentucky.”
Securing companies to process and sell finished goods is critical to jump starting research.
Comer said one company, Caudill Seed, will process seed-based products at plants in Louisville, Morehead and Winchester. Industrial hemp grown in western Kentucky will be purchased by a company in western Minnesota to make plywood and other items for the construction industry.
“Anything that you can make from a tree, you can just about use from hemp. That’s why it’s more sustainable,” Comer said.
Production in eastern Kentucky will focus on creating renewable energy options and possibly automotive manufacturing, Comer added.
“In Germany, Mercedes and BMWs are manufactured using dashboards and other products from the hemp fibers. If you can replace plastic with hemp, that’s taking a giant step toward being sustainable and that’s great for the farmers.”
The project also complements another initiative the state has launched to replace eastern Kentucky’s dead coal industry. Locally produced crops and finished goods will feature a new symbol, Appalachia Proud: Mountains of Potential, similar to the Kentucky Proud program.
“The University of Pikeville is going to produce ginseng,” Comer said.
“You look at the landscape out there and it is obviously mountains and rough terrain. What can you grow or produce in that region? Ginseng grows in the woods, and all that is harvested in Kentucky ends up in Japan or Asia to be processed. We want to develop a processing industry in Kentucky. That’s a unique, outside-the-box partnership between the university and outside industry.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
INDIANAPOLIS, IN — Allowing farmers to grow hemp in Indiana could help boost the economy and dispel myths about a crop that can be used to make everything from paper to car parts, supporters told lawmakers Friday.
The testimony helped convince the Senate’s agriculture committee to unanimously approve a bill, Senate Bill 357, that would enable farmers to legally grow industrial hemp, but only if they or the state gets federal approval. Hemp is marijuana’s non-intoxicating cousin but it cannot be grown under federal law, though many products made from hemp, such as oils and clothing, are legal.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Richard Young (D-Milltown), said hemp fields flourished in Indiana before and during World War II, but petrochemical industries and other industries later lobbied against hemp — which can also be used to make fuel — to cut competition.
“This is a plant that has been used for centuries throughout the world and has tremendous potential,” Young said.
But lingering stereotypes have haunted efforts to legalize the crop ever since, said Neal Smith, chairman of Indiana National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Kentucky passed similar legislation last year, and eight other states have done the same, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The 1970 Controlled Substances Act requires hemp growers to get a permit from the Drug Enforcement Administration. The last permit was issued in 1999 – and expired in 2003 – for an experimental plot in Hawaii. U.S. Sens. Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky are co-sponsoring legislation that would federally legalize industrial hemp farming.
The economic benefits remain unclear, however, and whether Indiana would receive a permit is uncertain.
Still, Indiana farmers said waiting on state legislation would be a disadvantage.
“I wish Kentucky wouldn’t always be in front of us,” Indiana Farmers Union member Pam Patrick told the committee. “When I see industrial hemp, I see money.”
University of Kentucky research from last year suggested Kentucky could support about 80,000 acres of hemp that would bring in between $200 and $300 per acre, although increasing supplies could cut that to about $100 per acre. The research shows the current national market for the crop is small, and likely could only support a few dozen jobs in Kentucky.
Also in speaking in favor of the Indiana legislation were two mothers of children with Dravet syndrome, a rare childhood disease that causes frequent seizures. Cannabidiol, a chemical in hemp, is sometimes used to stop the seizures.
Brandy Barrett broke down in tears while telling lawmakers how her 7-year-old son can’t visit the zoo because overstimulation can trigger seizures.
“Help me and help all the state of Indiana be a voice for these children,” Barrett said. “Support this bill.”
No one spoke against the bill, which now moves to the full Senate.
Over thirty countries produce industrial hemp, including Australia, Austria, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey and Ukraine.
The United States is the only developed nation that fails to cultivate industrial hemp as an economic crop, according to the Congressional Resource Service.
The world’s leader in hemp production is China.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
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By BRUCE SCHREINER
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A Canadian hemp processor looking to expand operations south of the border sees Kentucky as fertile territory for production and processing, but its top executive said Wednesday that questions about the crop’s legality have to be resolved first.
Hemp Oil Canada Inc. President and CEO Shaun Crew said the Bluegrass state is in the running for a possible plant in the U.S. to process hemp seeds. The company would look to contract with area farmers to supply seeds to the plant, he said.
The company, based in a town south of Winnipeg, is looking at other states including North Dakota, Minnesota, Colorado and California for the potential expansion, he said.
Crew, who visited Kentucky recently to meet with officials, said the state’s central location and heritage of hemp production would be advantages.
"This underscores what’s out there potentially," said Holly Harris VonLuehrte, chief of staff to state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer.
The crop flourished in Kentucky until it was banned decades ago when the federal government classified it as a controlled substance related to marijuana. Hemp has a negligible content of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high.
Before the company expands production into the U.S., there needs to be certainty that the plant is legal, Crew said.
"The whole situation on the political end, until that’s resolved it’s difficult to make any commitments at this stage of the game," he said in a phone interview.
"We need to have the legal framework in place for not only ourselves but so the growers have some confidence that if they put in a crop, they’re not going to have the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) swoop in and cut it down and burn it."
Kentucky lawmakers passed a bill this year to allow industrial hemp to be reintroduced, but only if the federal government lifts its ban.
The state’s attorney general, Jack Conway, recently warned that if farmers plant industrial hemp in Kentucky next spring, they would be violating federal law and could be criminally prosecuted. Conway indicated he issued the advisory to state leaders, largely to protect farmers who might mistakenly believe it’s OK to grow the plant.
Comer, a leading industrial hemp supporter, argues that Kentucky law allows the crop and that the federal government doesn’t plan to prosecute to enforce its law. Comer says hemp could give an economist boost for Kentucky. The plant’s fiber and seeds can be turned into products ranging from paper to biofuels.
"Why in the world everybody wouldn’t want to jump on board for this is beyond Commissioner Comer," VonLuehrte said Wednesday.
Hemp supporters say their efforts to reintroduce the crop were strengthened by the federal government’s response to Washington and Colorado, which legalized the recreational use of marijuana last fall. The U.S. Department of Justice recently said it would not interfere as long as the states create tight rules.
Hemp Oil Canada’s products include hemp seed oil, toasted hemp seeds and hemp powders and flours. Its top markets are in Canada and the U.S., Crew said.
A new processing plant would likely start with about a half-dozen employees with the goal of expanding, Crew said. The plan would be to contract with area farmers to supply hemp seeds, he said. The company’s contract farmers in Canada typically net about $300 to $500 per acre, after production costs, he said.
Comer doesn’t expect large-scale grain farmers to shift to industrial hemp, but the crop holds potential for farmers with smaller operations, VonLuehrte said.
Crew said he sees tremendous growth potential for hemp products in the U.S. if the legal issues about the plant are resolved.
"U.S. legalization of growing industrial hemp brings so much more legitimacy to the market," he said. "I think the opportunities would flourish after that."Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Reported by: Aaron Adelson
Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says he hopes Kentucky farmers plant hemp in April.
"We used to grow tobacco on the farm and now basically we just have cattle and grow hay, and it just
seems like a good alternative crop," said Steven Albert, a farmer from Green County.
Albert came to a Hemp Commission meeting to learn more.
The state legalized industrialized hemp if federal law would allow it.
Well, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would not prosecute the two states that legalized marijuana. Furthermore,
Comer says the man who wrote the memo testified the government would not prosecute hemp farmers.
Comer says this gives Kentucky the green light.
"This is a very exciting first step, and we’ll just have to see.
History will decide whether this was a defining moment in Kentucky agriculture, or not," said Comer.
He and Senator Rand Paul plan to send the DOJ a letter announcing the state’s intent to move forward.
"I can’t imagine why they would be opposed to it," said Comer.
Things are moving quickly, but farmers like Albert need to learn how to grow hemp.
"Farmers in Green County know how to grow tobacco, tomatoes, anything you can think of,
but when I ask them how do you grow hemp? How do you harvest hemp? Most of them say they don’t know," said Albert.
The state needs to work out some regulatory issues before anybody puts seeds in the ground.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Ralph B. Davis firstname.lastname@example.org
FRANKFORT — Kentucky’s agriculture commissioner says a recent decision by the U.S. Department of Justice now clears the way for Kentucky farmers to once again grow industrial hemp.
Last week, the Justice Department announced it would not seek to challenge state laws regarding the medical or recreational use of marijuana. On Friday, Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said he interprets that announcement as an opening for Kentucky to begin implementing Senate Bill 50, which sets guidelines for the production of industrial hemp, that passed earlier this year.
“It’s about time!” Comer said in a statement released Friday. “This is a major victory for Kentucky’s farmers and for all Kentuckians.”
Comer said the DOJ announcement marks a major change in policy.
“Two years ago, the Obama administration would not even discuss the legalization of industrial hemp,” Comer said. “But through a bipartisan coalition of Kentucky leaders, we forced their hand. We refused to listen to the naysayers, passed a hemp bill by a landslide, and our state is now on the forefront of an exciting new industry. That’s called leadership.”
Comer also announced that Brian Furnish, chairman of the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission, has called a meeting of the group for Sept. 12, at which Comer and Furnish will urge the commission to move forward with the administrative framework established by the hemp bill.
“My hope is that we can issue licenses and get industrial hemp in the ground within a year,” Furnish said.
Comer said he believes the passage of the hemp bill will allow Kentucky to be proactive, rather than reactive, in creating jobs.
“Had we not passed the framework to responsibly administer a program, we would be lagging behind right now, rather than leading the pack,” Comer said. “I am so grateful to our federal delegation for its support, especially Sen. Rand Paul and Congressmen John Yarmuth and Thomas Massie, who courageously testified in support of this job-creating legislation.”
On Wednesday, Sen. Paul issued a statement, supporting Comer’s move.
“I support Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer in his efforts to move forward with the production of industrial hemp in the Commonwealth,” Paul said. “This fight has always been about jobs and providing another opportunity for Kentucky’s farmers, and I expect the Obama Administration to treat all states equally in this process. I will continue to fight at the federal level to enact legislation to secure this new industry for Kentucky.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
KNOXVILLE — Two state lawmakers in Tennessee are pointing to Kentucky’s recent approval of hemp farming as they push for a similar measure.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reports Republican Sen. Frank Niceley of Strawberry Plains is drafting a bill with Republican Rep. Andy Holt of Dresden, and they plan to introduce the measure in next year’s legislative session.
Nicely said Kentucky and six other states have passed measures legalizing hemp even though federal law prohibits it. Nicely said there also is support for changing federal laws, notably from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul, both from Kentucky.
“The utilization of hemp to produce everything from clothing to paper is real, and if there is a capacity to center a new domestic industry in Kentucky that will create jobs in these difficult economic times, that sounds like a good thing to me,” McConnell said in a statement earlier this year.
Hemp is controversial because the fiber is derived from the same plant as marijuana. Although varieties of the plant eliminate all or most of the drug component, authorities are concerned that marijuana cultivators might hide drug plants among a crop of fiber plants.
Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker of Tennessee did not take a position on the issue, but said it should be discussed.
“While we have not spent a great deal of time on the issue, we think it should be fully vetted and debated at the appropriate time,” Laura Herzog, spokeswoman for Corker, wrote in an e-mail.
A spokesman for Alexander offered similar comments.
“This is a very interesting proposal that has a good economic argument behind it. Unfortunately, an amendment by Sen. Paul to allow industrial hemp to be grown and processed was not considered during the farm bill debate, but Sen. Alexander will carefully consider this issue going forward,” Alexander’s spokesman, Jim Jeffries, said in an e-mail.
Niceley, a farmer, said introducing the measure in the Tennessee legislature would “put pressure on Congress” to repeal its prohibition on growing the plant, which has a long history in the nation.
“Betsy Ross’s first American flag was made of hemp. Cowboys used to have jeans made of hemp. The cover on covered wagons headed west was made of hemp,” he said.
“You can import it. You can process it for thousands of uses. You can own it. Why is it illegal to raise it?”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
By RONNIE ELLIS CNHI News Service
FRANKFORT — A University of Kentucky study concludes there is a growing but relatively small market for hemp which could offer some farmers an opportunity to grow a niche product.
But Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, hemp’s biggest booster in Kentucky, says the crop’s potential is greater if it can be produced to manufacture interior automobile components.
The study was commissioned by the Kentucky Hemp Commission on which Comer is a member after passage of legislation sponsored by Republican Sen. Paul Hornback, a Shelby County farmer, in the 2013 General Assembly.
Senate Bill 50 provides a regulatory framework for hemp cultivation if the federal government lifts its ban. (Hemp is a biological cousin of marijuana but contains much lower levels of THC, the chemical which produces the marijuana smoker’s high).
SB 50 was opposed by law enforcement agencies and Gov. Steve Beshear, fearing cultivation will complicate marijuana enforcement and eradication efforts. After the House, which originally opposed the bill passed it on the last day of the session, Beshear allowed it to become law without his signature.
About 30 countries, including Canada, European countries and China, the largest producer and user of hemp, grow it. Increasingly, domestic importers of legal hemp products have called for an end to the federal ban.
Comer and Hornback say it would offer farmers an alternative crop and make Kentucky a leader in a growing market.
“Realistically, I think it may be another option for some farmers but it’s not going to be a major agricultural panacea,” said Dr. Leigh Maynard, chairman of the UK Department of Agricultural Economics which conducted the study.
Maynard said the study indicates hemp grown for pressing into oil used in food and cosmetics might be as profitable as corn under ideal conditions, with both yielding about $200 to $300 per acre. But presently, Maynard said, there isn’t much potential for growing hemp for fiber products.
“It does not appear that anticipated hemp returns will be large enough to entice Kentucky grain growers to shift out of grain production,” the study says, “except at the highest assumed prices for a hemp seed only enterprise.”
But it goes on to say lower grain prices or higher than expected hemp yields or prices would alter that equation. It also says hemp is subject to “price volatility” as well as market manipulation by the world’s dominant producer, China.
Comer said he isn’t discouraged by the conclusions.
“It’s about what I expected,” said Comer. “There’s just nothing out there to compare it to in trying to determine a market.”
Comer said had similar studies been conducted on the potential of soybeans 15 or 20 years ago, “they would never have predicted where soybean prices are today.”
He sees opportunity in using hemp fiber to manufacture automobile interior components, stronger and lighter than plastic and recyclable. He said Mercedes and BMW are already using hemp products for interior dashboards and door panels and it could be boon in Kentucky which has three major auto manufacturers and many parts suppliers.
If a hemp processing facility were to locate in Kentucky to supply auto manufacturers, Comer said, “The sky is the limit.”
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom McKee, a Harrison County farmer who is also on the Hemp Commission, originally held up Hornback’s bill in committee at the direction of House leadership but eventually voted for it. He had not seen the UK report.
“I’ll be anxious to look at it,” McKee said, “but I still think a research component is needed. I hope there is a potential market, but I don’t want farmers taking a chance on something that might not work out.”
Maynard said hemp represents “another tool in (farmers’) toolboxes,” a crop which might be sold to a niche market.
He said Kentucky possesses two of three critical components needed for a successful hemp market: it has farmers and a market, which though small is growing. But it lacks the “first line processors” which could buy from farmers and then sell to those who produce consumer products.
Even if a processing facility is located in Kentucky, Maynard said, it probably won’t produce a lot of jobs, perhaps 25 to 50.
He also said Kentucky will face competition if the federal ban is lifted, not only from Canada, but from eight other states which have passed legislation similar to Kentucky’s.
Maynard said Kentucky, which was the dominant U.S. hemp producer in the 1830s and 1840s, offers promising conditions to grow hemp, but it needs first to develop seed varieties which will prosper here.
RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at email@example.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
In a screenshot from the farm bill debate Rep. Jared Polis holds the hemp flag. (Courtesy C-SPAN) The flag flying over the Capitol building on the Fourth of July might look like your typical Old Glory. But you probably won’t notice the fibers that make it special. It’s believed to be the first hemp flag to flutter over the dome since the government began outlawing marijuana’s less-recreational cousin back in the 1930s.
Colorado hemp advocate Michael Bowman is the man responsible for getting the flag, made from Colorado-raised hemp and screen-printed with the stars and stripes, up there.
He cooked up the idea while lobbying Congress this year to include pro-hemp measures in the farm bill. That legislation failed, of course, but the seed of the hemp flag had been planted.
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) gave Bowman an assist with the details, which included working with the Capitol’s flag office. (The flag program allows people to buy flags flown over the Capitol, so they rotate in new Old Glories nearly every day.)
“It’s a powerful symbol,” Bowman says, adding that the red, white and blue flying over the Capitol is a reminder of the role that hemp played in the founding and early days of the country. Betsy Ross’s flag was made of hemp, he notes, and Colonial settlers even paid their taxes in the crop — it was used for all kinds of goods, from rope to fabric to paper. Those Conestoga wagons heading west were covered in canvas fashioned from hemp fibers.
So, he thought having it fly on America’s birthday seemed pretty appropriate.
After its Capitol flight, the flag will make its way back to Colorado, where it will fly over the state capitol building in Denver. After that, Bowman is sending it out on a tour of state houses in states where there’s legislation pending that would legalize hemp. One of the first up: Vermont.
And while advocates are quick to point out that hemp lacks the THC content beloved by stoners, this will still be one high-flying flag.
By Emily Heil | 10:03 AM ET, 07/02/2013Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The U.S. House of Representatives voted 225-200 on June 20 to legalize the industrial farming of hemp fiber. Hemp is the same species as the marijuana plant, and its fiber has been used to create clothing, paper, and other industrial products for thousands of years; however, it has been listed as a “controlled substance” since the beginning of the drug war in the United States. Unlike marijuana varieties of the plant, hemp is not bred to create high quantities of the drug THC.
The amendment’s sponsor, Jared Polis (D-Colo.), noted in congressional debate that “George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp. The first American flag was made of hemp. And today, U.S. retailers sell over $300 million worth of goods containing hemp — but all of that hemp is imported, since farmers can’t grow it here. The federal government should clarify that states should have the ability to regulate academic and agriculture research of industrial hemp without fear of federal interference. Hemp is not marijuana, and at the very least, we should allow our universities — the greatest in the world — to research the potential benefits and downsides of this important agricultural commodity.”
The 225-200 vote included 62 Republican votes for the Polis amendment, many of whom were members of Justin Amash’s Republican Liberty Caucus or representatives from farm states. But most Republicans opposed the amendment, claiming it would make the drug war more difficult. “When you plant hemp alongside marijuana, you can’t tell the difference,” Representative Steve King (R-Iowa) said in congressional debate on the amendment to the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013.
“This is not about a drugs bill. This is about jobs,” Representative Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) countered King in House floor debate June 20. Massie, a key House Republican ally of Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and a member of the Republican Liberty Caucus, opposes marijuana legalization but had signed on as a cosponsor of the Polis amendment.
The amendment would take industrial hemp off the controlled substances list if it meets the following classification: “The term ‘industrial hemp’ means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.” The amendment would allow industrial farming of hemp “if a person grows or processes Cannabis sativa L. for purposes of making industrial hemp in accordance with State law.” Most states have passed laws legalizing industrial hemp, in whole or in part, but federal prohibitions have kept the plant from legal cultivation.
However, the annual agricultural authorization bill subsequently went down to defeat in the House by a vote of 195 to 234. Sponsors of the amendment hope that it will be revised in conference committee, where it has strong support from both Kentucky senators, Rand Paul and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The legislation, originally offered as the bill H.R. 525, was sponsored by Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who represent states where voters recently considered ballot measures that legalized marijuana within their states, a fact King pointed out in House floor debate. Voters in Colorado and Washington approved the ballot measures in 2012, but voters in Oregon rejected a ballot measure that would have legalized cultivation of marijuana.
Recent polls have indicated that most Americans want legalization of marijuana, as well as hemp. Though support for marijuana legalization is by only a slim majority of the public, there’s a larger divide among age groups, with younger voters more heavily favoring legalization.
None of the debate on the amendment related to the constitutional authority of Congress to ban substances. Nor did any congressman reference the first time Congress banned a drug — alcohol. At that time, Congress followed proper constitutional protocol to amend the U.S. Constitution first, giving it the legitimate power to ban alcohol (i.e., the 18th Amendment). No comparable constitutional amendment has been passed for hemp, marijuana, raw milk, or any other substance prohibited by the federal government.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
By BRUCE SCHREINER, Associated Press
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s U.S. senators suffered a setback Thursday in their efforts to re-establish industrial hemp as a legal crop, but they vowed to continue their campaign after getting blocked as they tried to attach hemp language to the Senate farm bill.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul said they would oppose the Senate farm legislation.
Their amendment would have removed federal restrictions on the domestic production of industrial hemp. The crop once flourished in Kentucky until it was banned decades ago when the federal government classified it as a controlled substance related to marijuana.
Hemp has a negligible content of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high.
The push by McConnell and Paul to legalize industrial hemp comes after Kentucky’s legislature passed a bill this year to allow the crop to be reintroduced in the Bluegrass State, but only if the federal government lifted its prohibition on the plant.
"Although we’re disappointed in the lack of consideration of our industrial hemp amendment, it is only the beginning of our legislative efforts," the Republican U.S. senators said in a joint statement. "We are committed to continuing to look at all options to win approval of this important legislation for job creation in Kentucky."
McConnell and Paul blamed majority-Senate Democrats for blocking consideration of additional amendments to the five-year farm bill, including their hemp proposal.
"This year’s Senate farm bill is in need of serious improvement and the refusal to allow better ideas and more sensible allocations of taxpayer dollars to be considered is very disappointing," McConnell and Paul said. "We will be opposing the Senate farm bill as a result."
The Courier-Journal first reported the senators’ reaction to the hemp amendment’s setback.
The farm bill advanced on a 75-22 procedural Senate vote Thursday that sets up a vote to pass the measure next Monday. The bill would cost almost $100 billion annually and would set policy for farm subsidies, food stamps and other farm and food aid programs.
Republican House leaders have said their chamber will vote on the bill, possibly as soon as this month.
In Kentucky, the industrial hemp movement has firmly taken root as the plant’s advocates hope for a breakthrough at the federal level.
State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says its reintroduction would give farmers a new crop and would create processing jobs to turn the fiber and seeds into products ranging from paper to biofuels. Dozens of countries already produce the crop.
Comer went to Washington to meet with federal officials to lobby for a change on hemp policy at the federal level.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear let the state’s hemp bill become law without his signature. The Democratic governor said he wouldn’t sign the legislation out of concerns, shared by some in law enforcement, that marijuana growers could camouflage their illegal crops with hemp plants.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Published: February 9, 2013
The nightmare hemp scenario for Kentucky State Police apparently is a field legally licensed to grow hemp for grain with illegally planted marijuana mingled in.
Unlike hemp grown for fiber (when the plants are inches apart to promote tall stalk growth), the hemp grown for grain and marijuana plants would look substantially the same, said Jeremy Triplett, supervisor of the state police forensic lab.
Both could be shorter and bushy. The only way to really know, he said, would be to test for delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical that gives marijuana smokers a high.
Such testing could cost hundreds thousands of dollars each year, at $755 per quantitative analysis, not to mention $1.8 million in start-up expenses, state police have estimated.
But would that really happen? Would an unscrupulous pot grower plant marijuana with hemp?
Take Canada, where marijuana also is illegal but hemp has been legally grown since 1998: "Health Canada’s Industrial Hemp Program has never found marijuana growing in hemp fields instead of hemp," the agency said in a statement.
They’ve looked. A lot.
Canadian inspectors take samples annually from each field and have found THC levels slightly above 0.3 percent from stress during growing, but not above 0.5 percent, Health Canada said.
Keith Watson, Manitoba Agriculture Food and Rural Initiatives agronomist, has seen and tested most of the hemp grown in his province in the past 15 years. Does marijuana creep in?
"I’ve never run into it," Watson said. About 95 percent of the crop is sampled annually, and he said that marijuana and grain hemp might look just alike and could be planted side by side and only an expert eye might distinguish the difference. But in his experience, it just doesn’t happen.
"Over the years, that’s taken me out to an awful lot of fields," Watson said. "I’ve never found marijuana in the field or any trace of it."
He said a "handful" of times he has seen paths cut into the fields, places were people have topped the plants. But it doesn’t happen much any more.
"After a couple of years, nobody bothers it," he said.
What about marijuana?
As for marijuana growers using hemp to pad their illegal pot, "the general impression is that’s a self-regulating industry," Watson said. "They’ll get away with it once … but if the quality (of the marijuana) isn’t up to par, there will be a lot of broken kneecaps."
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and others say marijuana growers would not want hemp anywhere near their illegal crop because the extra-low THC varieties of Cannibis sativa known as hemp would cross-pollinate with the high-THC Cannibis sativa that is marijuana and weaken the potency of the illegal product.
But Triplett, of the state police lab, said there is a flaw in that argument: The offspring of the current crop might be watered down, but the original plants would be just as potent as ever.
"I might reduce my profit margin, but I can plant 10 acres in plain view and not worry about it," Triplett said.
Most of the 3,128 samples of marijuana that Triplett’s lab tested last year for felony drug cases had much higher levels of THC than 0.3 percent. The National Institute of Drug Abuse reported that 10 percent is about the norm nationally.
"But I can tell you for sure there’s still lots of very average marijuana out there," Triplett said.
Kentucky State Police Chief Rodney Brewer confirmed that. "Ten percent would be a good grade for Kentucky," he said.
His office destroyed 441,000 marijuana plants last year, and he attributes much of it to Mexican drug cartels willing to come to Kentucky, grow "what we call ditchweed — 3 to 4 to 5 percent THC — grow twice as much, sell twice as much and make twice the profit," Brewer said.
As for Canada’s experience, Brewer said: "Just because they didn’t find it doesn’t mean it’s not there."
He pointed to the boom in medical marijuana in Canada, which he said keeps the Royal Canadian Mounted Police busy, primarily stopping indoor growers.
But medical marijuana growers are not thrilled with hemp either.
In California, where medical marijuana growers are aiming for THC levels of 30 percent or higher, many growers are up in arms over the possibility of hemp being grown in the San Joaquin Valley, said Sarah Soares, an advocate with the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform.
They argue that "pollen from industrial hemp will destroy their crops," she said.
Even indoor growers go to great lengths to prevent pollen from sneaking in, with HEPA filters and sticky mats at doorways.
One way growers boost the level of THC is by destroying male pollen-producing flowers so the female flowers keep producing sticky, THC-laden resin. Once the flowers are fertilized, they stop making the resin and set seed, something that most growers don’t want.
"Nobody will buy marijuana that is full of seeds any more," Soares said. "That was the ’70s."
Soares said that the law enforcement argument that marijuana might be hidden among the hemp is "a Trojan horse." Any grower who wanted to hide in plain sight would be taking a risk: Scrutiny is guaranteed.
"Farmers are in farming to make money. If they planted something that would get them in trouble, they wouldn’t make money," Soares said.
What’s the cost of testing?
Kentucky Senate Bill 50, filed by state Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, gives the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and law enforcement the right to inspect hemp crops at will; the GPS coordinates of fields would be reported as well, to avoid confusion.
As for increased drug testing, it is not clear that the state police drug lab would be required to do much more work than they do now: The Kentucky Department of Agriculture is prepared to handle testing to regulate industrial hemp, Comer said.
"It will cost $20 to do a test," Comer said. The state Agriculture Department "can do all the testing without one additional person or one additional penny of tax dollars."
What are the economic benefits?
Brewer and narcotics officers have said that hemp’s economic benefits have been overblown. Brewer, along with House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said that it needs more study.
Brewer pointed to Canada, which studied hemp production for three years before licensing farmers. There, hemp has been a bit of a roller coaster, but the general trajectory remains up.
"It’s a very small industry at this point, but it’s growing at about 20 to 25 percent a year, each year," said Watson, the hemp agronomist. "So it’s getting to be fairly significant."
But there have been ups and downs. In 2006, a bumper crop combined with overplanting resulted in a depressed market from which growers are just now recovering.
Even during the down years, production and processing still grew, Watson said.
"It’s a solid 50,000 acres in Canada now, which is pretty small, but it’s worth a few million dollars," he said.
He said the United States could be looking at a similar boom/bust cycle if hemp restrictions are lifted: "Everybody will want to grow it," he said. That would result in a huge oversupply until the processing and the market catch up.
But the bigger problem might be winning over farmers from record high prices for corn, which at current prices could gross about $1,000 an acre.
In Canada, hemp typically generates a gross return of $350 to $400 an acre, he said.
"Hemp has to compete to buy its acres," Watson said.
Comer said that Kentucky farmers will have the information they need to make a market-driven decision.
The Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission, which he chairs, has commissioned the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture to study the economic potential of hemp production in the state.
The UK study will not be ready until late spring or early summer; it will be used, hemp commission members said, to lobby on the federal level for changes that could allow Kentucky to be among the first states in decades to grow hemp.
"The farmers won’t grow it if it’s not economically viable," Comer said. "Farmers are smart businesspeople. They won’t grow it if they can’t make money. And no processor will come if they can’t make money either."
But he said that, based on the phone calls and meetings he has had since the hemp debate has resurfaced, he doesn’t think the market will be a problem.
"Let the bureaucrats get out of the way," Comer said, "and let the market dictate what happens."
State Senate Committee to vote on Hemp bill on Monday
The state Senate Agriculture Committee will vote Monday on Senate Bill 50, sponsored by state Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, to license Kentucky farmers to grow hemp if federal restrictions are lifted.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, and U.S. Reps. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, and Thomas Massie, R-Vanceburg, will testify with Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and James Woolsey, former director of the CIA.
The hearing will be at 11 a.m. Monday in Room 131 of the Capitol Annex, 700 Capitol Avenue Loop in Frankfort.
Separate hemp legislation will be the subject of a hearing in the House Agriculture and Small Business Committee on Wednesday.
Janet Patton: (859) 231-3264. Twitter: janetpattonhlRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Industrial hemp is a fiber and oil seed crop
with a wide variety of uses. Hemp fibers
have been used to manufacture hundreds
of products that include twine, paper,
construction materials, carpeting and clothing.
FRANKFORT, Ky. — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, U.S. Reps. John Yarmuth and Thomas Massie, former Director of Central Intelligence R. James Woolsey (of the Clinton Administration), and Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer will testify next week in support of an industrialized hemp bill.
Industrial hemp is a fiber and oil seed crop with a wide variety of uses. Hemp fibers have been used to manufacture hundreds of products that include twine, paper, construction materials, carpeting and clothing.
The Senate Agriculture Committee will hear the testimony Monday, Feb. 11 at 11 a.m. in Room 131 of the Capitol Annex in Frankfort. Senate Bill 50, sponsored by Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, establishes a framework to re-introduce industrial hemp into Kentucky’s agri-economy if and when the federal government acts to legalize it.
Immediately following the vote on SB 50, the group will move to Room 154 of the Capitol Annex to take questions from the media.
Operation UNITE said industrial hemp production in Kentucky is not economically sound, that it would impose an unnecessary financial burden on the state and could facilitate future efforts to legalize its cousin – marijuana. Police groups also say the legalization and growth of hemp in Kentucky would impede law enforcement officers’ marijuana eradication efforts, because “the plants are indistinguishable to the eye,” said Tommy Loving, executive director of the Kentucky Narcotic Officers’ Association.
The Kentucky Industrialized Hemp Commission says Kentucky has the perfect climate and soil to produce industrial hemp, and the farmers to grow it. Comer believes the crop could be a great economic boon to Kentucky.
The group recently commissioned an economic impact study to be performed by the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. It hopes such a study could have an impact on the discussion at the federal level to legalize industrial hemp.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
For Immediate Release
Wednesday February 6, 2013
U.S. Representative Massie
Introduces Industrial Hemp Bill
WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY) introduced federal legislation that requires the federal government to respect state laws allowing the growing of industrial hemp. H.R. 525, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013, amends the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana. Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) is a co-sponsor of the bill in the U.S. House. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) are supporting a similar bill in the U.S. Senate.
“Industrial hemp is a sustainable crop and could be a great economic opportunity for Kentucky farmers,” said Rep. Massie. “My wife and I are raising our children on the tobacco and cattle farm where my wife grew up. Tobacco is no longer a viable crop for many of us in Kentucky and we understand how hard it is for a family farm to turn a profit. Industrial hemp will give small farmers another opportunity to succeed.”
On the federal level, Rep. Massie is taking the lead in Congress as the original sponsor of industrial hemp legislation. Also, this week Massie will testify before the Kentucky legislature along with other members of Kentucky’s federal delegation and Kentucky’s Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer in support of a related state bill.
Kentucky was a leading producer of the world’s industrial hemp supply during America’s early years as a nation. It is used in hundreds of products including paper, lotions, clothing, canvas, rope, and can be converted into renewable bio-fuels more efficiently than corn or switch grass. Critics of industrial hemp mistakenly equate it to marijuana. The plants are cousins in the cannabis family but industrial hemp contains very small amounts of the intoxicant (THC) found in marijuana, making it ineffective as a drug. Hemp is grown in over 30 western nations including Canada, England and France.
H.R. 525 has 28 original co-sponsors in the House, including House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson (D-MN). Massie co-sponsored a similar bill in the 112th Congress.
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Pat Caudill, left, is pictured with Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and Dan Caudill. The Caudill brothers are co-owners of Caudill Seed Co.
Louisville-based Caudill Seed Co. is quickly becoming the poster child for the legalization of hemp production in Kentucky.
The company has been featured in a CBS News report, on WDRB-TV in Louisville and in several newspaper articles, with owners Dan Caudill and Pat Caudill explaining what they think a legal hemp crop would mean for Kentucky and their company.
The two became interested in the issue when they met James Comer, now Kentucky’s Secretary of Agriculture, during his 2011 campaign for the office. Legalizing hemp to give Kentucky farmers a new revenue stream is one of Comer’s priorities.
Because it has so many hills, Kentucky has a lot of land that’s only marginal for agriculture, Dan Caudill said in an interview. Hemp is an ideal crop for the state because it can grow nearly anywhere, just like tobacco.
Aside from farmers, the rest of the state would benefit if it could create hemp-processing facilities that would provide jobs, Caudill said. Hemp seeds can be processed into oil, and its tough fibers can be woven into fabrics to make clothes or entwined to make rope.
Every year, Caudill Seed imports from Brazil about 75 tractor/trailer loads of twine made from sisal that it distributes to farm retailers for bailing hay. The Caudill brothers would like to distribute rope made locally instead.
Chances of passage better than 50-50
The company expects to benefit from legalized hemp production in two ways, Dan Caudill said. It would be able to buy seed and sell it to farmers who want to grow hemp. And, it would process seed grown by Kentucky farmers and sell it to crushing companies that would extract the oil.
- Page 1
MCCRACKEN COUNTY, Ky. – McCracken County Sheriff Jon Hayden has invited all of the Purchase area sheriffs over Friday to talk about Industrial Hemp.
State lawmakers have been gaining momentum in an effort to get legislation through that would legalize growing hemp. It would still take an exemption from the federal government, but supporters are more and more confident they could actually get one this year.
That means law enforcement agencies need to know exactly what that would mean for them. Hayden told WPSD Local 6 he hasn’t made up his mind about the issue yet. He hopes to get some questions answered Friday from a Kentucky Department of Agriculture expert.
"We’re obviously concerned about the inability to distinguish what is industrial hemp and what is marijuana," he said. The major difference between hemp and pot is the level of THC, the chemical that causes the high when the plant is smoked. Hayden added if hemp is legal, anyone stopped with marijuana will probably claim to have hemp and the only way to tell would be to test it.
"This situation is going to overwhelm the Kentucky State Crime Lab Systems," he said.
Still, even with the obvious challenges, Hayden said if the advantages of cashing in on the controversial crop outweigh the disadvantages, he would support it.
Senate Bill 50 is expected to be voted out of committee Monday and could find it’s way to the Senate floor by Wednesday.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
January 31, 2013
CORBIN — By Jeff Noble, Staff Writer
And could the reclaiming bring a hike in southeastern and eastern Kentucky’s economy?
A bioenergy company with roots in the Tri-County thinks so.
Patriot Bioenergy Corporation recently became the first corporate member of the Kentucky Hemp Growers Cooperative Association, a Lexington-based organization that wants to make industrial hemp legal in the state — something that hasn’t been done since it was last grown during World War II as part of the nation’s war effort at home.
Patriot’s CEO Roger Ford said Wednesday industrial hemp can be grown in a variety of areas, including hillsides, which would complement the growing of energy beets for a biofuel on the company’s energy facilities, including those in the Williamsburg-Whitley County area.
“The optimal planting method seeds the plants closely together, which encourages the stalks of the plant to grow while the leaves grow smaller, increasing per-acre yields. That would work hand-in-hand with our Whitley County facilities. The industrial hemp seed can be processed into bio-diesel while the stalks are a cellulosic material, which is useful for a variety of things.”
Ford added Patriot’s focus would be to produce a biomass-coal blend from hemp and coal that would be what he called “torrified” — an energy process producing feedstock for energy production.
“The overall economic impact would be to diversify and improve the local economy by the production of industrial hemp. It would help agriculture and our project in particular.”
Patriot, based in Pikeville, is discussing the potential for using industrial hemp with coal companies. Ford said testing would be done at a laboratory in Magoffin County, with Patriot funding the research, and the results expected to be released in the middle of March. “We are currently conducting a feasibility study that will blend coal and hemp to measure the BTU values, as well as measure the emissions’ reclamation potential to hemp growing forward.”
Ford also brought up the possibility industrial hemp in Kentucky could also be used for energy and horse bedding at horse farms in the state and around the nation. A consultant with Ford on hemp research told Business Lexington magazine earlier this week the use of hemp as horse bedding is “straightforward and has been done.”
Ford also brought up the possibility industrial hemp in Kentucky could also be used for energy and horse bedding at horse farms in the state and around the nation. A consultant with Ford on hemp research told Business Lexington magazine earlier this week the use of hemp as horse bedding is “straightforward and has been done.”
“The next step, conversion of the hemp-manure mixture to methane, is certainly viable, has been optimized ad published as recently as 2012 by a Finnish group. … Besides material for co-combustion with coal, we can produce biodiesel from the seed oil, which can be used as is or converted to jet fuel. Likewise, the whole plant can be used as a feedstock for fermentation of ethanol or longer chain fuels — gasoline, jet fuel, the list goes on — with huge markets associated. The ability to capture even small percentages of markets on this scale would be a tremendous boost to Kentucky,” Dr. Katherine Andrews told the magazine.
The state’s Commissioner of Agriculture, James Comer, wholeheartedly supports bringing industrial hemp back to Kentucky. Ford stated Patriot is working with Comer and the state’s Industrial Hemp Commission on the issue. He’s also encouraged with support in Frankfort and Washington from both political parties.
“Thus far, we’re encouraged with the bi-partisan support in Kentucky. Senator Sara Beth Gregory is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and we are hopeful that the committee will vote to send SB (Senate Bill) 50 to the full Senate in the next couple of weeks. … In addition, we are encouraged by the strong support from Senator Rand Paul, Congressman Barr, Congressman Yarmuth and Congressman Massie. We would hope that Senator McConnell and Congressman Rogers would weigh in and support this issue. Their leadership is needed in Washington and the people of Kentucky need a change in federal law so businesses and farmers can produce this crop and create jobs,” said Ford.
In Frankfort, Senate Bill 50 provides procedures that would allow and facilitate cultivating industrial hemp, if there is a similar change in Washington. While it’s not a drug like marijuana, federal law still says hemp is illegal.
According to an Associated Press story on Monday, Senator Paul Hornback (R – Shelbyville), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, plans to bring the hemp bill up for a vote in his committee at a Feb. 11 hearing. U. S. Senator Paul is scheduled to appear in Frankfort and support the measure.
Ford noted that industrial hemp and marijuana cross-pollinates and diminishes the THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) in marijuana.
“In short, it ruins the narcotic value of marijuana. It would be similar to planting field corn and sweet corn in the same field. For law enforcement to object to the production of industrial hemp on the basis that it poses a risk to narcotics enforcement is disingenuous at best. The fact is the cross-pollination would aid in the eradication of marijuana. Businesses or farmers would not seek to plant industrial hemp and marijuana in the same field, because that would obviously be counterproductive,” he said.
Kentucky state senator to bring hemp bill up for vote
- By The Associated Press
- Posted January 28, 2013 at 3:13 p.m.
FRANKFORT, Ky. — The chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee sounded upbeat Monday about prospects for his bill that would regulate industrial hemp production in Kentucky if the federal government lifts its decades-long ban on the crop that once was a Bluegrass state staple.
Republican Sen. Paul Hornback of Shelbyville said Monday he intends to bring the hemp bill up for a vote in his committee, which is expected to review the legislation at a Feb. 11 hearing. Hemp proponent U.S. Sen. Rand Paul is scheduled to appear at the hearing and put his political weight behind the measure.
Don’t call it a ‘Weed;’ Momentum for hemp in Ky
by Joe Arnold
Posted on January 28, 2013 at 8:07 AM
Updated yesterday at 10:38 AM
FRANKFORT, Ky (WHAS11) — Reinvigorated after a ten year dormancy, Kentucky’s Industrial Hemp Commission meets Monday morning with an apparent new momentum.
The effort recently gained the endorsement of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and bills that would legalize the crop are expected to be debated when the General Assembly’s "short session" resumes in February.
Sen. Paul Hornback (R-Shelbyville), a sponsor of one of the bills (SB50) and a statutory member of the commission, is scheduled to attend.
Kentucky Narcotic Officer’s Association: No to Legalizing Hemp
By Kevin Willis
The recent talk in Frankfort about legalizing industrial hemp hasn’t convinced the head of the Kentucky Narcotic Officer’s Association. Tommy Loving, who also leads the Warren County Drug Task, says he fears marijuana growers will plant their crops next to hemp, making it difficult for law enforcement to distinguish between the two.
Some agriculture experts say planting the two crops together would destroy the potency of the marijuana over time, but Loving told WKU Public Radio that wouldn’t deter those looking to hide from law enforcement.
"If you plant marijuana with hemp surrounding it, for instance, in one growing season, you’re not going to diminish that much of the THC content in the marijuana. So your marijuana crop is still going to be a sellable commodity,” said Loving.
KSP: Hemp backers ‘naive’ after endorsing Senate bill
Posted on January 28, 2013 at 4:32 PM
Updated today at 8:20 AM
FRANKFORT, Ky (WHAS11) — With momentum building for an effort to license hemp farming in Kentucky, law enforcement leaders lashed out on Monday, saying hemp’s supporters are looking at the issue "through rose-colored glasses."
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The pushback came as Kentucky’s Industrial Hemp Commission met at the Agriculture Commissioner’s offices and voted to endorse Senate hemp legislation.
All three representatives of law enforcement on the commission were absent, including Operation UNITE’s Dan Smoot who joined in the news release from the Kentucky Narcotic Officers’ Association in opposition to Senate Bill 50 and House Bill 33.
FRANKFORT, Ky. — With support from some of the state’s top politicians and claims that it would create thousands of jobs, an effort to legalize industrial hemp — the less-potent cousin of marijuana — may have its best chance of passing the Kentucky General Assembly.
Opposition from the Kentucky State Police helped kill earlier efforts to legalize hemp, which can be processed into fiber for clothing or provide an oil used in skin- and hair-care products. Once legal, hemp production in the United States was centered in Kentucky. Production fell nationally after the mid-1800s, as cotton surged.
State police still oppose legalizing hemp, arguing in part that because the plants look virtually the same as marijuana it could impede drug enforcement efforts.
But the proposal to legalize hemp has gained momentum from the alliance of Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, state Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Paul Hornback, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
“This is something that you don’t have to borrow any money (for) that will have an immediate impact of thousands of jobs,” Comer said, based on an assumption that processors and manufacturers would locate in Kentucky if it is one of the first states to approve it. “We’re ahead at something that relates to economic development for once, so let’s pursue it.”
Comer and Paul say the state police concerns are unfounded because growers of industrial hemp would be licensed and global-positioning system devices would identify legal crops and reveal others as illegal.
Comer’s Senate Bill 50, sponsored by Hornback, a Republican from Shelbyville, was filed earlier this month just before the legislature adjourned until February.
The bill would require growers to be licensed annually and have their backgrounds checked by the Agriculture Department. Each licensee would be required to plant a minimum of 10 acres to eliminate people who aren’t serious from getting licenses.
Growers would have to keep sales contracts for three years and provide names of hemp buyers to the department.
Hemp seeds produce plants with less than 1 percent THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, which has between 3 percent and 15 percent THC.
Comer said he believes there are 22 votes in the 38-member Senate in favor of the bill. But if it isn’t assigned to Hornback’s committee by Senate President Robert Stivers and other Senate leaders, it may never get to the floor.
“I’m afraid I see problems in the Senate,” Comer said.
Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, said some members are uncomfortable with the bill.
If the measure passes the Senate, it likely will face an even tougher battle in the House, where Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom McKee, a Democrat from Cynthiana, has blocked similar bills from getting a vote in the past
McKee has said the state police concerns resonate with him.
“I think we have some questions to answer, but I certainly don’t want to close any opportunity for viable agriculture,” McKee said earlier this month.
Gov. Steve Beshear said on a Lexington radio call-in show recently that his “only hesitation” is law enforcement concerns.
Even if an industrial hemp bill passed in Kentucky, it would still need federal approval. Federal drug policy effectively bans growing it, although other countries, such as Canada, allow it.
Paul, a Bowling Green Republican, has supported federal legislation to enable hemp production by classifying it separately from marijuana. Paul and Comer appeared together at the Kentucky State Fair last year to talk about their support for industrial hemp.
If legalized, Comer said he doesn’t see corn and soybean growers in Western Kentucky switching to industrial hemp, but he said it would be a profitable alternative for growers in hillier areas whose land is now used for grazing and pasture.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Published: January 20, 2013
By BRUCE SCHREINER — Associated Press
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Industrial hemp’s repositioning toward mainstream status gained ground with a timely endorsement from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. But the plant’s proponents have more work to do in cultivating support to legalize a crop that once was a Bluegrass state staple.
The chamber said recently that provided there’s adequate regulatory oversight, it supports legislation to position Kentucky as a leader in the production and commercialization of industrial hemp. The position was hailed by hemp backers, noting the chamber’s political clout.
"When Kentucky’s leading voice for small businesses and economic development endorses a piece of legislation, lawmakers sit up and listen," said state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, a former state lawmaker.
Comer is leading the comeback campaign for the versatile crop outlawed for decades due to its association with its cousin, marijuana. Hemp has a negligible content of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high.
Comer, a farmer himself, touts hemp’s potential while crisscrossing the state, saying Kentucky can become a hub of hemp production and manufacturing. The crop can be turned into paper, clothing, food, biofuel, lotions and other products.
"We could be the Silicon Valley of industrial hemp manufacturing right here in Kentucky," Comer said recently.
Bills aimed at legalizing the crop have been introduced in the Kentucky House and Senate, and lawmakers are expected to debate the issue when they return to the State Capitol in Frankfort next month to resume the 2013 session.
But hemp backers acknowledge challenges remain, namely resistance from Kentucky State Police. And that opposition could have a spillover effect with lawmakers hesitant to oppose the state’s top law enforcement agency.
State Police Commissioner Rodney Brewer last month restated the agency’s opposition, saying law enforcement may have difficulty distinguishing between hemp and marijuana.
Comer met with Brewer following a meeting of the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission late last year, but the commissioner said they’ve had no follow-up discussions. Comer said he’d like to have state police support but sees the agency’s resistance as a "non-factor."
"I was a state representative for 11 years and very few bills ever passed without somebody being opposed to them," he said.
Republican Sen. Paul Hornback of Shelbyville, lead sponsor of one of the hemp bills, said state police opposition will be an obstacle. But he said the state chamber’s support for legalizing the crop helps reshape the crop’s image.
"Everybody has to feel comfortable with the bill," said Hornback, a tobacco farmer who once was lukewarm to hemp. "With the stature that the state chamber has, I think it does legitimize it. It brings credibility to the issue."
Supporters say there’s a ready-made market for hemp, pointing to industry estimates that U.S. retail sales of hemp products exceed $400 million. Hemp is grown legally in Canada and many other countries, and imports into the U.S. include finished hemp products.
At least a couple of Kentucky companies – a tobacco processor and a seed supplier – have expressed interest in branching out into hemp. Hemp supporters say that could lead to jobs, especially in rural areas.
But the resistance of state police could be a sticking point for some lawmakers, including the top House leader.
"It will be difficult to pass any legislation that doesn’t have the support of the Kentucky State Police and Kentucky’s law enforcement community," said House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg. "As long as they have reservations, I have reservations."
Another potentially key player in the debate, Rep. Tom McKee, D-Cynthiana, said the biggest impediments to hemp’s comeback are the federal ban on hemp and the concerns of state police.
But McKee, chairman of the House Agriculture and Small Business Committee, hasn’t yet staked out a position on the issue.
"We don’t want to close a door on any viable agricultural crop that is profitable and would be well-accepted," he said.
Under Hornback’s bill, hemp growers would need licenses, and applicants would have to pass criminal background checks.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul said he would seek a waiver from the federal ban on hemp for Kentucky if state lawmakers vote to legalize the crop. Paul also has pushed for federal legislation to remove restrictions on hemp cultivation. The Kentucky Republican said hemp supporters need to persuade law enforcement skeptics that the crop "won’t make the drug problem worse."
"We live in a modern world where we have GPS," he said in a recent speech in Frankfort. "Couldn’t a farmer or anybody who wants to grow it just get a simple one-page permit and say these are my GPS coordinates where it’s being grown and it could be checked?"
As for Comer, the agriculture commissioner has said he won’t defy the federal government on the issue.
The crop hasn’t been grown in the U.S. since the 1950s. Kentucky once was a leading producer of industrial hemp. During World War II, the U.S. government encouraged farmers to grow hemp for the war effort because other industrial fibers, often imported from overseas, were in short supply.
Because it can thrive in small, sloping plots, Comer said hemp could be a viable crop on marginal land in central and eastern Kentucky.
"A decade from now, someone will look back and think, ‘You mean there were people opposed to growing industrial hemp?’" he said.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Advocates for hemp legalization are building pressure, with the biggest push in Kentucky.
Photo Credit: SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
January 11, 2013 |
Kentucky was America’s leading hemp producer in the early 19th century. Now, 200 years later, after a historic election for drug policy has led to a shift for marijuana policy reform in America, Kentucky lawmakers are taking steps to revive the crop.
While advocates for hemp legalization say the plant could bring a wealth of green jobs to Kentucky, deep-rooted drug stigma and conflict with federal law have made passing the legislation unlikely. Nonetheless, two state bills are in the works, while a federal proposal aims to clear the way for state legalization. Lawmakers suggest the bills could at least open up the conversation about hemp, and clear up misconceptions about its use.
Because hemp is increasingly imported from Canada, growing and making it in the US could save the US money and create green jobs at home. Aside from soy, no other plant has shown the potential to create so many different products — from hemp soap to paper and oil. Hemp rarely requires pesticides, can be grown in the same fields over several consecutive years, and produces biodegradable plastics and biofuels. Lightweight and dense, hemp-limeis a building material that is known to be an efficient insulator leaving behind a minimal carbon footprint.
Kicking off the call for hemp production in Kentucky is Kentucky Democratic representative Terry Mills, who has pre-filed an industrial hemp bill that would allow hemp to be made from marijuana crops containing .3% THC, which is at least one and a half times less than typical marijuana THC levels and does get people high. M arijuana that has psychoactive properties comes from the flowering buds, leaves and resin of the cannabis plant, while the stalks and sterilized seeds of the plant are commonly referred to as hemp.
A federal hemp bill is indeed in the works, but the chances of it passing in the near future are slim to none. The Hemp Farming Act of 2012 was introduced by senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Rand Paul (R-KY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) this summer. It would amend the Controlled Substances Act to allow for the cultivation of low-THC hemp and exempt industrial hemp from marijuana legislation.
"I’m not opposed to it," said state Rep. Jim DeCesare (R). "It is a good alternative crop for the ag community." Stil, DeCesare acknowledges that many people are confused by the differences between agricultural hemp and the pot that people smoke.
"They are not the same," he said. "It is going to take an education effort" for the bill to pass the state house. If they can make it happen, which is unlikely, the benefits would be immense. As Rand Paul recently wrote, "[Hemp] jobs will be ripe for the taking, and I want farmers in Kentucky to be the first in line.”
Kristen Gwynne is an associate editor and drug policy reporter at AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter: @KristenGwynneRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
By Michael Bomford
Hemp and flax have a lot in common. Both have a long history in Kentucky, but neither is grown in the Commonwealth today. Both can be used to make fiber for fabric and paper. Both are potential bioenergy crops. Both have seeds rich in nutritious fatty acids. Both are low-input crops, well-suited to organic production.
The key difference is that flax farming is legal in Kentucky; hemp farming is not. Perhaps because the federal government doesn’t allow hemp production, calls for its return are newsworthy. Agriculture Commissioner James Comer coasted to victory after calling for industrial hemp production in the Commonwealth. Two weeks ago, Kentucky’s House Agriculture and Small Business Committee held a hearing on two bills that would change state law to allow hemp production.
The General Assembly is unlikely to pass either bill in 2012, and even if it did, the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA’s) interpretation of federal law would also have to change before Kentucky farms can grow hemp legally again. Hemp is Cannabis sativa, the same species as marijuana, but it contains just trace amounts of the psychoactive chemical found in the narcotic. Smoking it won’t make you high. Hemp production has been allowed under North Dakota state law since 1999, but the federal DEA has rejected all applications for permits to grow it commercially there, or in any of the other states that have followed North Dakota’s lead. While North Dakota farmers wait to be allowed to grow hemp, they lead the country in flax production.
Kentucky place names remind us of the historical importance of both hemp and flax in the Commonwealth. Hemp Ridge is near Shelbyville. Flax Branch is a stream in Floyd County, Flax Creek is in Lincoln County, and Flax Patch is in Knox County.
Cutting hemp near Lexington, Kentucky. Click image for source.
Hatchling flax in Kentucky. Click image for source.
In 1775, when hemp was first planted in Kentucky, most settlers already had a patch of flax to supply household needs. For almost a century, Kentucky’s Bluegrass Region was the center of the US hemp industry, which existed mainly to make fiber for ropes, sails, and paper. Flax continued to be widely grown throughout the state, too: By 1850, Kentucky grew about half of the nation’s hemp, and about a quarter of its flax. Farmers often grew the two crops in rotation, since both could be harvested and processed with the same equipment. Flax made a finer fiber, used for clothing; while hemp made a courser fiber, suitable for rope. Except in wartime, hemp prices were often below the cost of production, yet the crop’s ability to combat weeds made it a worthwhile addition to a rotation.
Kentucky’s hemp and flax industries both went into rapid decline in the late 1800s, due to competition from cheaper imported fibers like jute, manila, and sisal; falling costs of domestic cotton production; and the replacement of sailing ships with steamboats. By 1860, Missouri had replaced Kentucky as the nation’s largest hemp producer. Both hemp and flax had almost completely disappeared from the nation’s farms by the late 1940s. The last legal commercial hemp crop was harvested in Wisconsin in 1957. The DEA has prevented hemp from returning legally since then, but flax has made something of a come-back in the Dakotas, Montana, and Minnesota.
Canadian hemp is used to make organic hemp products for the US market, which are certified organic by the USDA.
Most of the hemp sold in the US today comes from Canada, where farmers have been allowed to grow the crop since 1998. Canada also grows more than twice as much flax as the USA. Canadian farmers are not making a lot of money from either crop: Net returns are in the neighborhood of $100 per acre. Most of the income from both hemp and flax production today comes from selling the nutritious seeds, which are rich in Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. The useful fiber portion of the crop often goes unsold because fiber processors are few and far between, and transporting bulky straw is expensive. The economics look a little better for organic production, with substantial premiums available for organically-grown hemp and flax seeds and fibers.
Markets for hemp and flax have been volatile in recent years, with many growers losing money on both crops. Canadian hemp growers were hard hit in 1999, when a California processor contracted to purchase 40% of the hemp crop, then went bankrupt. It took seven years for the industry to recover, then acreage crashed again in 2007, due to a lack of fiber processors. Canadian flax growers were also hurt by a 2009 scandal that closed the European market to Canadian flax, after it was found to be contaminated with a genetically modified variety that had not been released for commercial production. Recent years have seen substantial declines in flax acreage on both sides of the border, as farmers dedicate more land to corn and soybeans, which generate far greater returns.
Lack of hemp processing facilities contributed to crashes in Canada’s nascent hemp industry in 1999 and 2007. Although growing hemp is legal in Canada, Canadian farmers planted more than twenty-five times as much land to flax in 2010. Source: Health Canada
A 1998 study by a University of Kentucky team of economists projected net returns of $120-$340 per acre for hemp production in Kentucky. It didn’t consider flax production, but the Canadian experience suggests that flax could offer similar returns. The authors note that Kentucky-based processing facilities would be needed for farmers to realize profits in the higher end of their projected range. Commissioner Comer wants these to be placed in economically-depressed areas of the state that used to depend on tobacco production. If there really is potential for a low-input, multi-use fiber and oilseed crop, like hemp, then why not experiment with flax? Processing facilities could be built for flax in the near term, and used for hemp, too, should it ever become legal again. The Canadian experience suggests that hemp may not live up to its advocates’ hype, but Kentucky doesn’t have to wait for the federal DEA to change its tune to re-introduce a similar once-prominent crop… flax.
2 Responses to “Feds Won’t Let You Grow Hemp? Try Flax.”
After posting my article, I came across a 2010 dissertation by UK doctoral student Watchareewan Jamboonsri that reports results of flax trials near Lexington, Kentucky, in 2006-08 (http://uknowledge.uky.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1120&context=gradschool_diss, chapter 5).
Two of those years were drought years, and flax yields were very poor. Even in the best year, yield was only 75% of what might be expected in North Dakota or Canada. Jamboonsri concludes that flax is not well suited to Kentucky’s climate.
So why was flax such an important crop in Kentucky’s history? Did early settlers have varieties that were better adapted to Kentucky’s climate? Or was flax such a useful crop that they grew it here despite its poor performance?
By Beth Musgrave — firstname.lastname@example.org
FRANKFORT — The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce joined a growing chorus of high-profile supporters on Friday who want to let Kentucky farmers grow industrial hemp, but the effort continues to face an uphill battle.
Bills have been filed in the House and Senate that would license farmers to grow the plant — a close cousin to marijuana — if the federal government lifts its ban on the crop. Such proposals have failed to gain traction with lawmakers in previous years, but sponsors of the two bills said they believe the measure has a better chance this year.
The board of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce voted Friday to support the proposal and Republican Agriculture Commissioner James Comer has spent much of the past year aggressively lobbying state and federal leaders to lift the ban on hemp as a way to stimulate rural Kentucky economies.
Half of Kentucky’s congressional delegation — Republican U.S. Reps. Thomas Massie and Andy Barr, Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth and Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul — have also supported efforts to legalize growing hemp.
Still, skeptics remain.
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said Friday that many Democratic and Republican senators remain uneasy with legalizing industrial hemp. Stivers said he did not know if the measure would pass the Republican-controlled Senate.
"We know that some members are quite supportive of it," Stivers said. "Some members are still trying to, I guess, digest the issue and hear from respective individuals that are involved."
In the House, Agriculture and Small Business Committee Chairman Tom McKee said he takes seriously the concerns some law enforcement officials have expressed about the proposal.
"I have some reservations because of the law enforcement concerns," said McKee, D-Cynthiana. "But we certainly don’t want to close any doors on a viable agriculture crop for our farmers, but I do think there are a lot of concerns."
Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rodney Brewer has said it would be difficult for police in helicopters to distinguish hemp from marijuana. The two plants are from the same species, cannabis sativa, but are genetically distinct. Hemp has a negligible amount of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high.
Comer said the majority of law enforcement officials he has talked to support the legalization of hemp.
"Most of them say they can tell the difference (between hemp and marijuana)," he said. "But if the state police have objections and there are things that we can do to ease those objections then we’re willing to look at it."
Comer said the crop could provide agriculture and manufacturing jobs in Kentucky, as it once did during World War II. In the 1970s, Congress made hemp and marijuana Schedule 1 narcotics, making it illegal to grow them without a permit from the Drug Enforcement Agency.
However, products containing hemp can be sold in the United States. The crop can be turned into paper, clothing, food, biofuels, lotions and many other products.
Comer said at least three companies have approached him about coming to Kentucky if federal and state leaders lift the ban. Those companies do not want any incentives to come to Kentucky, he said.
"It will create jobs now without the state going into debt or having to bond any money," he said.
Senate Bill 50, filed Friday by Republican Sen. Paul Hornback of Shelbyville, would require people to obtain a license to grow hemp if the federal government lifts its ban. Applicants would have to pass a criminal background check and copies of each license would be sent to Kentucky State Police.
"Not only will it create jobs in agriculture, it will create jobs in manufacturing — new jobs in Kentucky," Hornback said.
State Rep. Terry Mills, D-Lebanon, has filed similar legislation. House Bill 33 would give law enforcement more authority to track hemp producers while Hornback’s bill would give the Department of Agriculture more oversight.
"I don’t want us to move forward until everyone is comfortable," Mills said. "I am not interested in medicinal marijuana or recreational marijuana use; it’s only about improving rural Kentucky, and that includes bettering the agriculture economy."
Beth Musgrave: (502) 875-3793. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.comRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Published: January 3, 2013
By Beverly Fortune — email@example.com
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer brought his pro-hemp message to the Lexington Forum on Thursday.
Since taking office in 2011, Comer has held town meetings in all 120 Kentucky counties, inviting local legislators to attend, to promote industrial hemp. In the early 19th century, Kentucky was the nation’s leading hemp producer.
Comer is backing a bill in the General Assembly that would permit industrial hemp to again be cultivated.
Hemp would produce income for farmers and create manufacturing jobs for products using hemp, he said.
Farmers growing hemp would have to be licensed by the state and their fields inspected regularly, Comer said.
The Department of Agriculture, the state’s largest regulatory agency, would oversee cultivation and sales of the crop.
Hemp is a sustainable, annual crop that "is easy and cheap to grow," he said. "It grows well in this climate and requires very little fertilizer or insecticides." The plant grows best in marginal soils found in many Central and Eastern Kentucky counties.
For people, including law enforcement officers, who are concerned that marijuana might be grown in hemp fields and the hemp and marijuana plants confused, Comer said the two look completely different.
Marijuana is a short, bushy plant with lots of leaves; industrial hemp is tall, with a thick stalk and few leaves.
When grown near each other, hemp and marijuana cross-pollinate, and the hemp destroys buds on the marijuana plants, he said. "Industrial hemp is an enemy of marijuana," Comer said. "Law enforcement should be for industrial hemp."
The long-dormant Industrial Hemp Commission, revived under Comer, has contracted with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture to conduct an economic-impact study.
For the crop to be grown successfully, there has to be a market for the fibers, Comer said. "Many products we make from plastic, like car dashboards, armrests, carpet and fabrics, are made from hemp in other countries. Hemp is also used to make paper."
Comer said one major benefit of growing hemp would be the manufacturing jobs created to produce items using hemp fibers, seed and oil.
"The United States is the only industrial country in the world that doesn’t allow industrial hemp to be grown, yet many products Americans buy have hemp as an ingredient," he said. Hemp is legally grown in Canada and China, and throughout Europe.
If the General Assembly approves growing industrial hemp, the federal government would have to lift restrictions before it could be grown. "I want us to be ready when the federal government gives the go-ahead. I’m convinced they’re going to do that," Comer said.
Beverly Fortune: (859) 231-3251. Twitter: @BFortune2010.
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House Bill 1831, which was introduced last year by Texas Republican Ron Paul and a coalition of 25 co-sponsors, and SB 3501, introduced this August in the Senate by Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden and three co-sponsors, would exclude low potency varieties of marijuana from federal prohibition. If approved, this measure will grant state legislatures the authority to license and regulate the commercial production of hemp as an industrial and agricultural commodity. Several states — including North Dakota, Montana, and Vermont — have enacted regulations to allow for the cultivation of hemp under state law. However, none of these laws can be implemented without federal approval. Passage of HR 1831 would remove existing federal barriers and allow states that wish to regulate commercial hemp production the authority to do so.
Vote Hemp President, Eric Steenstra stated, "It is due time for the Senate as well as President Obama and the Attorney General to prioritize the crop’s benefits to farmers and to take action like Rep. Paul and the cosponsors of H.R. 1831 have done. With the U.S. hemp industry valued at over $400 million in annual retail sales and growing, a change in federal policy to allow hemp farming would mean instant job creation, among many other economic and environmental benefits."
According to a 2010 Congressional Resource Service report, "approximately 30 countries in Europe, Asia, and North and South America currently permit farmers to grow hemp." But the United States does not. As a result, U.S. companies that specialize in hempen goods have no choice but to import hemp material. These added production costs are then passed on to the consumer who must pay artificially high retail prices for hemp products.
Previous versions of The Industrial Hemp Farming Act have been introduced in the House, but failed to receive a public hearing or a committee vote. This is the first year the issue has ever been introduced in the Senate. Please write your members of Congress today and tell them to end the federal prohibition of industrial hemp production. For your convenience, a prewritten letter will be e-mailed to your member of Congress when you enter your contact information below. For more information about industrial hemp, please visit: http://www.votehemp.org.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Credit Kentucky Governor’s Office
Before he joins the call for legalized industrial hemp, Gov. Steve Beshear wants law enforcement officials to resolve their concerns about the issue.
The issue: Some Kentucky officials believe legalized industrial hemp would be good for Kentucky’s economy, but law enforcement officials are concerned that such a move would conflict with efforts to crack down on marijuana growers.
“I think we’re going to have to answer those questions before we can really move forward in the industrial hemp area,” Beshear said.
Kentucky is central in the movement to legalize hemp as an agricultural crop, largely thanks to the advocacy of Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul.
Comer has helped revive a dormant state commission on hemp — which he chairs — and is working on a new economic study to prove the crop’s prowess.
Hemp is a cousin and lookalike to marijuana that lacks the chemicals that cause psychoactive effects. Comer has attempted to dispel concerns from Kentucky State Police officials, pointing out that hemp and marijuana can be easily told apart. And that hemp would cross-pollinate with marijuana and reduce the latter plant’s drug effects, he argues.
Another Democrat, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, has the same stance as Beshear. Stumbo said that as a former attorney general, he is currently deferring to law enforcement’s opinion on hemp.
But several in Kentucky’s federal delegation approve of hemp’s legalization, including U.S. Paul and Republican U.S. Reps.-elect Andy Barr and Thomas Massie. Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth also supports the issue.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Published: December 15, 2012
A recent national poll concluded that 43 percent of Americans believe unemployment and job creation is the most important issue facing our country. So it’s no surprise that Republicans and Democrats in Washington claim to be big supporters of creating jobs.
But the truth is D.C. policy-makers on both sides of the aisle stifle jobs and opportunity with regulations and policies that hurt our work force. And often, it flies in the face of common sense. The perfect example of this is the debate over industrial hemp.
Prior to World War II, Kentucky led the nation in providing 94 percent of all industrialized hemp. However, it was outlawed under an umbrella law that made marijuana illegal. This was simply because they are in the same botanical family and look similar.
But there are major differences in the two plants. Marijuana is made up of 20 percent tetrohydrocannabinol (THC), the mind-altering chemical, while industrial hemp plants contain less than 0.3 percent.
Comparing hemp to marijuana is like comparing poppy seeds found on bagels to OxyContin. Poppy seeds are in the same family of opiate — the same family that contains codeine, morphine, OxyContin and even heroin.
Yet, you can buy and consume food containing poppy seeds, as thousands of Americans do each day, without experiencing the narcotic effects the rest of its plant is harvested for.
So, the issue with hemp isn’t that the plant is harmful. It’s that the plant might be mistaken for marijuana.
This presents some challenges for law enforcement. But we can address those challenges. And we can return to growing and producing hemp in Kentucky. And in the process, create jobs and opportunity here.
Let me share an example of the economic potential for industrial hemp.
Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps is based in California and sells products made from hemp plants. David Bronner, the company’s CEO, says it grossed over $50 million in sales this past year. But since the production of industrial hemp is outlawed in America, the company must import 100 percent of the hemp used in their products from other countries.
The company sends hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars every year to other countries because American farmers are not allowed to grow this plant. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation in the world that does not allow the legal growth of hemp.
Today, hemp products are sold around the U.S. in forms of paper, cosmetics, lotions, auto parts, clothes, cattle feed and so much more. If we were to start using hemp plants again for paper, we could ultimately replace using trees as the main source for our paper supply.
One acre of industrial hemp plants can grow around 15,000 pounds of green hemp in about 110 days. For every ton of hemp converted into paper, we could save 12 trees. It is a renewable, sustainable, environmentally conscious crop.
Back in August, I stood alongside Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and a bipartisan group of legislators and promised Kentuckians that I would join the fight to allow the growth and production of industrial hemp. Comer stated that day that the soil and the climate in Kentucky are perfect for the growth of hemp, and that could ultimately allow the commonwealth to be the nation’s top producer.
Recently, Comer revived the long-dormant Kentucky Hemp Commission by calling its first meeting in more than 10 years. This took real leadership and I applaud him for his action. To help get the ball rolling and show our commitment, Bronner wrote a $50,000 check to the commission and I have pledged to match that donation from my personal political action committee.
While Comer and the commission work to address this issue in Kentucky, I have co-sponsored legislation in the U.S. Senate that would require the federal government to honor state laws allowing production of industrial hemp and would exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana.
My vision for the farmers and manufacturers of Kentucky is to see us start growing hemp, creating jobs and leading the nation in this industry again. These jobs will be ripe for the taking, and I want the farmers in Kentucky to be the first in line.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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