Written by: Gregory A. Hall The Courier-Journal
Agriculture Commissioner James Comer. (By James Crisp, Special to the Courier-Journal) Feb. 22, 2012
Three of Kentucky’s members of Congress and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer sent a letter to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration asking whether the federal agency would oppose Kentucky’s plans to begin growing hemp.
The letter, dated Nov. 25, relies on a Department of Justice policy change issued Aug. 29 that says the federal agency will not oppose laws by individual states to allow production of marijuana, hemp’s potent relative. Hemp has a tiny fraction of the intoxicating chemical in marijuana and is grown largely for the fiber in its stalks.
“It would defy common sense to allow states to move forward with marijuana activity, but ignore states that have passed laws allowing for the production of industrial hemp,” states the letter signed by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, U.S. representatives John Yarmuth and Thomas Massie, Comer and state Industrial Hemp Commission chairman Brian Furnish.
The letter notes that Colorado also plans to permit hemp production next year following its new law allowing marijuana.
“We expect all states to be treated equally in this process,” the letter said. “If Colorado can produce industrial hemp, so can Kentucky.”
The Kentucky General Assembly passed Senate Bill 50 earlier this year, which allows hemp production if the federal government declassifies it as a controlled substance.
The letter argues that a 2003 DEA rule that exempted hemp from the Controlled Substances Act already does that, but the letter seeks clarification.
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, however, issued an opinion in September agreeing with Kentucky State Police officials who argue the crop is still illegal. Conway’s opinion said proponents still need a waiver from the federal government or a change in federal law to produce hemp..
Comer has said he will have a bill filed next year in the General Assembly to clean up some of the language in Senate Bill 50.