By Ronnie Ellis
CNHI News Service
An advisory opinion from Attorney General Jack Conway didn’t do anything to clear up disagreements between Republican Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and Democratic Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo about legislating a “regulatory framework” to grow hemp in Kentucky.
Comer has pushed hard for a bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Paul Hornback, which would set up such a framework, including allowing Comer to issue permits to grown hemp in 10-acre or larger plots.
Comer and Hornback claim it could position Kentucky to be first in the nation to grow the crop if a federal ban is lifted, creating thousands of jobs and providing farmers a valuable alternative crop.
Kentucky State Police and most other law enforcement spokesmen oppose the bill because they say it will make it more difficult to deal with illegal marijuana cultivation and Stumbo and others scoff at the economic benefit claims by Comer and hemp supporters.
The bill easily passed the state Senate but it created controversy in the House Agriculture Committee the chairman of which, Rep. Tom McKee, D-Cynthiana — presumably with Stumbo’s blessing — planned to amend the bill to call for further study.
But several committee members revolted, demanding a vote on Hornback’s original bill which ultimately passed. McKee voted for it along with every other Democrat on the committee.
Subsequently Stumbo, who contends Kentucky law already allows the cultivation of hemp if the federal government lifts its ban, requested an opinion on that question from Conway.
Conway issued his opinion Thursday — and predictably both Comer and Stumbo each claims it sides with him.
Maybe each has a claim. Conway’s ruling seemed to come down with a foot on either side of the fence.
It points out that current Kentucky law mandates that any change in the federal law be reflected in Kentucky laws and regulations — which would seem to support Stumbo’s position.
“What (Conway) said was, that’s right — if the federal government legalizes it then Kentucky automatically legalizes it.” Stumbo said. “All you have to do is comply with whatever requirements the federal government has.’
But Conway’s opinion goes on to say that if the federal ban on hemp is lifted but the federal government enacts no regulations on its cultivation, industrial hemp would essentially be unregulated in Kentucky — which would seem to support Comer.
Without Hornback’s legislation, Comer said, “Achieving a waiver from the federal government to be the first state to grow hemp will be almost impossible because there will be no safeguards in place. Other states have already passed similar programs. If we don’t act now, Speaker Stumbo will kill our chances to be first for these jobs.”
Stumbo said the federal government will never allow hemp cultivation “without a (federal) regulatory framework. You can bet on that.”
The bill went to the House Rules Committee Thursday where under House rules it can stay for a total of five days.
That means it could die there, because Thursday was the 26th day of the 30-day session.
Still Stumbo said there is still time to work out a compromise. But he also said any compromise he’d accept must address law enforcement concerns.
By Ronnie Ellis
- State News
A few glimpses into House budget plan
Monday is typically a light day in the General Assembly – few committee meetings and a late starting time to allow lawmakers to travel back to Frankfort.
Prevailing wage bill dies in committee
The state House of Representatives will apparently not vote on a bill to remove the requirement that public school construction projects pay the area’s prevailing wage.
Bill would allow Paul to run for two offices
Most people know Kentucky Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul is considering running for president in 2016. But, if he does, he wants to be able to hedge his bets by running for re-election to his Senate seat at the same time.
4,000 march, remember in Frankfort
This time the welcome was warmer; still cold, but the sun shone; and 50 years of progress was marked.
Same-sex marriage decisions
Kentucky’s Democratic Attorney General won’t appeal a federal judge’s decision that Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states — but Kentucky’s Democratic governor will.
Almost time for budget talk at session
More than halfway through the 2014 General Assembly, little has been seen of lawmakers’ plans for a new two-year state budget — but that’s about to change.
Same-sex marriage now legally recognized in Ky.
At least for the time being, same-sex couples with valid marriage licenses from other states must be legally recognized as married in Kentucky.
Debate ensues over juvenile court proceedings opening to public
Some juvenile court proceedings may soon be open to the public, but the measure still faces some stiff opposition in the state Senate from some.
Medical marijuana bill clears House panel
Stephanie Shown knows it was a small victory in a war she and others calling for legalization of medical marijuana are likely to lose this year.
2 honored for work with sexually abused
It’s Erica Brown Myers’ job to help those who have been victimized by sexual abuse. But helping others can take a toll on the helper as well as the victim.
- More State News Headlines
- A few glimpses into House budget plan