Saturday, January 26, 2013

Support for hemp in Clark County

Well, well, well. Guess what state is in the news again with hemp. No, not New York, which is in the news for lots of other things, some not so good...Kentucky is the answer. Look at all the posts on this blog and one sees that there is a really good chance hemp will be made legal there - and that the federal government will have a real fight on its hands if it tries to impose a ban on what was Kentucky's, and America's, herirtage crop. In the works at a Texas firm that makes hemp clothing is a petition to the White House so that work is being accomplished both on state and federal levels - make your voice heard if you wish and add your name at
The image below is of hemp farmers, on a ca. 1914 $10 bill. Makes one wonder how hemp and hemp farmers (Washington, Jefferson) could be on bank notes but the substance, which is also used to this day to produce US paper currency, is illegal to grow.

Clark County's agriculture fate could rest in hemp legislation

January 25, 2013|By Fred Petke

Central Kentucky News

Less than 150 years ago, industrial hemp was big business in central Kentucky, and Clark County was at the center of the industry.
It could return to the region as a cash crop, depending on what action the Kentucky General Assembly takes during its 30-day session.
Hemp’s history in Kentucky, though, was far from consistent. A drought in 1854 and the Civil War devastated the industry. In the two decades between 1869 and 1889, production boomed from 155 tons to more than 1,000 tons 20 years later. That success was followed by 33 states banning hemp between 1914 and 1933.
World War II gave hemp and Kentucky its last big boost with federal influence to help with production. It eventually fizzled by the 1950s, when few farmers wanted to deal with the government oversight and the labor-intensive crop.
Clark County could be “ground zero” for hemp’s rebirth in Kentucky, Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said during a recent visit, if the legislature will approve either of two pending bills. Comer said he and state Sen. R.J. Palmer, D-28, believe they have the 20 votes needed in the Senate to approve the bill. Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul is also a staunch supporter of hemp legislation.
Comer has led the charge, convening a rare meeting of the Kentucky Hemp Commission in late 2012 and actively lobbying for new legislation before the General Assembly. Last week, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce gave its support to the proposal, saying it could make Kentucky a leader in hemp production, provided there is enough regulation and oversight.
Senate Bill 50 would establish parameters for growers to obtain a state license, including that growers would provide GPS coordinates of the property and submit to a criminal background check. A license would allow them to grow hemp on a minimum 10-acre plot; smaller plots could be used for research.
House Bill 33 does not include site regulations but would order the sheriff of the county to monitor and test the plants for THC levels. The sheriff would also be responsible for performing the background checks.
Hemp is very similar to marijuana but with much lower levels of THC, the chemical that gives marijuana users the high. The physical similarities in the hemp and marijuana plants are one of the main reasons many in law enforcement, including Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rodney Brewer, are against legalizing hemp production. Winchester Police Chief Kevin Palmer and Clark County Sheriff Berl Perdue Jr. agree.
“It’s still against federal law,” Chief Palmer said. “I don’t see that it can be done legally with industrial hemp.
“I think it brings too much baggage with it.”
One of the chief stumbling blocks for law enforcement is the similarity between hemp and marijuana. Visually, the two are hard to tell apart from the other. Distinguishing between the two may require lab testing.
“I think it would be hard for a layperson to distinguish between the two,” Perdue said. “I’m opposed to it.
I still think it would be another obstacle for us if we find it in the field.
“In a field of cultivated hemp and cultivated marijuana, I’m not sure I could tell the difference.”
In the 1995 report to the Governor’s Hemp and Related Fiber Crops Task Force, hemp production is maximized by growing the plants close together to produce tall plants. Marijuana succeeds better as a low-density, short bushy plant. The two are visibly different while growing in the field, but individual plants are hard to distinguish, the report states.
“Any confusion about controlled substances adds to the problem for law enforcement,” Chief Palmer said.
“What is the priority here? Is it crime prevention and dealing with the ongoing drug problem, or is it the economy? In my opinion, it’s choosing your priority.”
Comer, a former state legislator, is not dissuaded by the lack of support from the state police.
“All we’re asking is for is for government to get out of our way, let these private sector jobs be created, and you have legislators who say there’s a small government agency that’s opposed to it,” he said.
Comer believes hemp could be a huge industry for Kentucky, between growing and manufacturing jobs, and one that wouldn’t require subsidies or incentives to get off the ground. It would also be a sustainable industry. A 1998 report from the University of Kentucky also said that Hemp requires few, if any, herbicides. If grown in rotation with other crops, it could reduce the number of weeds and boost yields for other plants, the study found.
Still, Clark County’s legislators are divided on the issue of hemp.

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