By Steve Elliott
An amended bill to legalize industrial hemp production by Kentucky farmers -- if the federal government allows it -- was passed by the Kentucky Legislature in the final minutes of this year's regular session.
The Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission remains in the state Department of Agriculture, with only research functions of the bill assigned to the University of Kentucky, according to the terms of the compromise, reports Gregory A. Hall at the Louisville Courier-Journal. The last point of contention had been a try by House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins (D-Sandy Hook) to put the Hemp Commission under the authority of the University.
That had proven to be a deal breaker for bill sponsor Sen. Paul Hornback (R-Shelbyville) and its chief backer, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer.
In fact, Comer had left the Capitol under the impression the hemp bill was dead. He returned late Tuesday when he learned Adkins wanted to continue the talks.
"We're very satisfied with the bill," Comer said. The next step, according to Comer, will be working with Kentucky's federal lawmakers to get a DEA waiver for a pilot project to grow industrial hemp in the state.
Public pressure to pass the hemp bill helped achieve the last-minute deal, according to Comer.
The bill passed the House as amended, 88-4, with Comer, a former House member, watching from the chamber floor. The Senate approved the compromise 35-1.