The push for hemp in Kentucky is getting a bump from other states' efforts to legalize the plant's unsavory cousin, a Kentucky official said.
Kentucky Agriculture Secretary James Comer said recent measures in Washington and Colorado to legalize marijuana use will only strengthen efforts to allow industrial hemp in the commonwealth.
Marijuana and hemp are considered cousins. Hemp is grown for its fiber and oil and it can’t be used as a drug like marijuana can.
But law enforcement officials have opposed legalizing hemp, arguing that it would allow farmers to hide marijuana in their fields.
Comer, who was elected in 2011, is the chairman of the state’s hemp commission, which held its first meeting last week after a decade dormant. Comer said the law enforcement issues are not a real concern -- if the two crops cross-pollinated, the marijuana would be ruined.
He also noted that voters in two states recently supported the legalization of marijuana shows law enforcement is far behind public opinion.
“Well I think it hurts the cause of any law enforcement agency to be against it for that reason,” Comer said.
Comer recently told lawmakers that supporters of hemp aren’t looking for any government handouts for their cause.
“We’re not asking for any tax dollars, we’re not asking for any tax incentives, we’re not going to ask for any tobacco settlement money. We just want to be able to have the freedom to grow a crop that we know will grow well in Kentucky," he said.
Comer says a new bill to legalize hemp will be presented to state lawmakers in 2013