By Steve Elliott
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said on Friday this week's policy change by the U.S. Department of Justice, under which the DOJ agreed to defer any lawsuits against states which legalize recreational marijuana, also clears the way for farmers to begin growing industrial hemp in the Bluegrass State.
The DOJ announced the new policy on Thursday, allowing states to legalize and regulate the cultivation, sales and use of marijuana as long as the changes protect children and prevent cannabis from entering the black market, reports the Courier-Journal.
Comer called the federal policy reversal a "major victory" for Kentucky farmers; he had spearheaded a hemp bill through this year's session of the Legislature. Officials indicated hemp cultivation could begin within a year.
Hemp, like marijuana, is a variety of the cannabis plant, but industrial hemp is grown for the fiber in its stalks and for the nutritional oil in its seeds, which contain a favorable ratio of the essential fatty acids (EFAs), Omega 3-6-9. Federal law, however, treats hemp the same as marijuana.
"It's about time," Comer said. "Two years ago, the Obama administration would not even discuss the legalization of industrial hemp. But through a bipartisan coalition of Kentucky leaders, we forced their hand."