FRANKFORT, Ky. (9/27/13) – State officials view the legality of industrial hemp differently for Kentucky.
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway released an opinion Wednesday stating that growing hemp is still illegal and Kentucky farmers, who grow it, could be prosecuted.
Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer believes that the commonwealth's top law enforcement official is wrong about his decision.
Comer and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican, have issued statements disagreeing with Conway, a Democrat.
Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo sided with the attorney general in a statement released today.
"I think Attorney General Conway's decision is legally correct," Stumbo stated. "As we discuss this issue in the future, we should talk about medical marijuana. There is a growing area of research showing that this has a positive impact on health where needed. I am open and leaning toward supporting the use of medical marijuana as I read more and more research. It is something worth debating."
Medical marijuana has been used for pain relief, nausea, spasticity, glaucoma and movement disorders. It is also a powerful appetite stimulant and sometimes used for chemotherapy patients. It is legal to grow in some states although marijuana is federally illegal.
While there has been a push for federal approval of allowing Kentucky farmers to grow industrial hemp, the substance is genetically related to marijuana but has lower tetrahydrocannabinol, the drug substance in marijuana. Hemp can be used in food, cosmetics, clothing and industrial materials like rope.
It's a controversy that continues to grow.
Advocates of growing industrial hemp argue that the U.S. Justice Department's recent stance of easing enforcement of marijuana laws added to the state's new hemp law, which became effective when Gov. Steve Beshear opted not to act on the Senate Bill 50 in April, means the plant can be grown legally in the state.
Kentucky State Police officials don't agree and asked Conway for an opinion. Conway sided with the state police stating a federal waiver would be required or a change in federal law to legally produce hemp in Kentucky.
Locally, KSP Post 2 communication officer Stu Recke said troopers always focus on the law.
"We (KSP) will enforce the laws passed by the legislators to the best of our abilities," said Recke.
Police officials have expressed concerned because hemp could aid illegal marijuana growers because the plants look similar and it would be easier to hide. Others worry the two would cross pollinate.
Under federal law, the plant is a Schedule I substance along with heroin and PCP even though hemp typically possesses only 0.3 percent THC compared to 3 to 22 percent in typical marijuana.
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