Farm Bill amendment will allow hemp research

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By Lisa King

Agriculture officials say they are pleased with newly passed legislation that will allow colleges and universities to grow hemp for research purposes in states where hemp production is allowed by state law.

The measure was an amendment to the farm bill that passed in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday.

U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Vanceburg) was one of three co-sponsors of the amendment and has filed a bill that would remove hemp from the federal definition of marijuana.

Massie said he plans to include the topic in his discussion when he visits Shelby County in August for a legislative luncheon at Persimmon Ridge.

“I would say the farm bill will be part of the discussion,” he said.

Massie said the amendment is his way of easing the issue of hemp into the public consciousness instead of hitting them over the head with it.

“It’s part of a strategy to educate people slowly about the opportunities of industrial hemp, which I think is a big deal for Kentucky,” he said. “That’s my engineering approach; let’s do this one step at a time.”

Although it is unlikely that a farm bill passed by the Senate or one agreed upon by both will resemble the bill passed by the House, Massie said he was confident that this amendment would be included in any future farm bill.

State Sen. Paul Hornback expressed his approval of the amendment.

“I think that it’s very good, I’m tickled to death with it,” he said.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said in a press release, “Without a doubt, this was an historic day for industrial hemp in America. There’s a long way to go in the legislative process. And I won’t be satisfied until Kentucky farmers can legally grow industrial hemp again. But I am pleased that we have made it this far.”

Massie joined Comer, Rep. John Yarmuth, and Sen. Rand Paul to testify before the state Senate Agriculture Committee in support of a bill sponsored by Hornback to create an administrative framework for industrial hemp production in Kentucky. State Sen. Robin Webb also spoke out in favor of the bill, and state House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins mounted a last-ditch effort that led to passage of the bill.

Hornback, who has been leading the charge for a policy change on industrial hemp, had traveled to Washington D.C. in May with Comer to promote the bill and had come back very encouraged, he had said.

On Thursday, Comer described the entire experience as “an amazing journey.”

“It wasn’t that long ago that people told us we wouldn’t even get a sponsor for the bill in the state senate,” he said. “Now we have a state law for regulating hemp production, and one house of Congress has passed legislation to allow colleges and universities to grow hemp. This has been an amazing journey – and we’re not finished.”