KSP: Hemp backers 'naive' after endorsing Senate bill

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by Joe Arnold

WHAS11.com

Posted on January 28, 2013 at 6:28 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 29 at 9:20 AM

FRANKFORT, Ky (WHAS11) -- With momentum building for an effort to license hemp farming in Kentucky, law enforcement leaders lashed out on Monday, saying hemp's supporters are looking at the issue "through rose-colored glasses."

The pushback came as Kentucky's Industrial Hemp Commission met at the Agriculture Commissioner's offices and voted to endorse Senate hemp legislation. 

All three representatives of law enforcement on the commission were absent, including Operation UNITE's Dan Smoot who joined in the news release from the Kentucky Narcotic Officers' Association in opposition to Senate Bill 50 and House Bill 33.

"I support law enforcement. I want them to be happy with this bill," said Agriculture Commissioner James Comer (R).  "But they are unwilling to compromise just like what's going on in Washington, DC."

"All the rhetoric you're hearing from the small group of proponents seeking to reintroduce hemp cultivation is based on desired outcomes, not reality," Smoot said.

"I think I'm looking at reality," countered Sen. Paul Hornback (R-Shelbyville) when apprised of the news release.  "I'm an eternal optimist.   And I think this is a crop that is a new crop, new opportunities for this state.  And I think it moves the state forward."

As chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Hornback plans to bring his hemp bill up for a vote in committee after a hearing on February 11.  But - it's unclear whether the measure would be considered by the full senate.

With endorsements from statewide groups and support from Senator Rand Paul and Congressmen John Yarmuth and Thomas Massie -- the idea is gaining momentum.  The hemp commission meeting has outgrown a conference room - moved to the Ag Department's garage.

Though Kentucky State Police were not a part of the law enforcement news release, the agency agreed to an interview request by WHAS11 to state its position on the issue.

"Everything that our agency has uncovered up to this point would indicate that it would be more of a liability to our state and its citizens, the criminal justice system, that there would really be no benefit whatsoever," said Trooper Michael Webb, speaking on behalf of KSP.

Though hemp has only trace amounts of the chemical that gives marijuana users a high, it looks similar - which police say complicates their work.
But the bill's sponsor, himself a farmer, says cross-pollination would help police.

"Believe me, there is one thing that a marijuana grower does not want is hemp growing around his marijuana plants,' Hornback said.  "Because it's going to lessen the effect, it's going to lessen the value."

"I think it's very naive to think that Mexican drug cartels would not be interested in a regulated crop here of hemp," Webb said.  "That they would not put pressure on our farmers and put pressure in other ways."

Comer says there are enough votes in both the House and Senate to pass the Senate hemp bill, but the law enforcement opposition is believed to make the effort more politically difficult.
 

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