By Kevin Wheatley, State-Journal
Industrial hemp could make a comeback as one of Kentucky’s top cash crops if lawmakers legalize the harvest of marijuana’s botanical cousin, legislators have told a House committee.
The Agricultural and Small Business Committee on Wednesday heard from key sponsors of two pieces of legislation –House bills 272 and 286 – that would make hemp a legal crop if the federal government lifts restrictions on it.
The bills didn’t come to a vote, but Rep. Tom McKee, a Cynthiana Democrat and the committee’s chairman, said the discussion would continue so both sides of the argument could be heard.
Sponsors spoke for about 30 minutes, highlighting primarily the many legal products produced by industrial hemp, such as textiles, paper, auto plastics, rope, construction material, cosmetics and feed for cattle.
The trickle-down effect would create 17,000 jobs and result in an economic impact between $400 million and $500 million, said Sen. Joey Pendleton, D-Hopkinsville, quoting a University of Kentucky survey from years ago.
“We’re sitting on the cutting edge and, to me, on a gold mine here of what we can do in the Commonwealth of Kentucky to create jobs and to give our agriculture people another opportunity to grow something,” he said.
Eighty-five percent of industrial hemp produced in Canada is shipped to the U.S., and China sends a large amount here as well, Pendleton added.