A bill to allow farmers to register to grow industrial hemp in Kentucky was filed last Thursday. House Bill 286 has 12 cosponsors.
Hemp production is prohibited under federal law (unless the DEA authorizes a permit, which it doesn't), and the bill acknowledges as much, saying "nothing in [this bill] shall be construed to authorize any person to violate any federal rules or regulations."
But bill supporters said passage of a hemp legalization bill would send a message to Washington that Kentucky is joining the list of states that want to grow hemp. Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, a former House member, is among those supporters.
"This sends a message that this is something we're serious about here in Kentucky," Comer said.
According to the industry group Vote Hemp, nine states have passed bills authorizing either hemp production or research into it, while eight states have passed resolutions calling for legal hemp production.
Kentucky passed a hemp research bill in 2001, and hemp production bills have been introduced there each year since 2009.
Hemp is produced in at least 30 countries, and can be legally imported to the US, but not grown here because the DEA refuses to make a distinction between industrial hemp and marijuana. Hemp is the only plant that can be imported, but not produced here.
The bill was filed Thursday by Rep. Richard Henderson (D-Jeffersonville), with co-sponsors including former House Speaker Jody Richards (D-Bowling Green), David Osborne (R-Prospect) and Mary Lou Marzian (D-Louisville).
The bill has been assigned to the Agriculture and Small Business Committee.