Sen. Rand Paul pushes for legal hemp with Kentucky ag commissioner


The Lexington Herald-Leader

Wearing a shirt made of hemp that he bought online from Canada, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul joined state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer on Thursday in calling for legalizing industrial hemp.

During a news conference before the 49th annual Kentucky Farm Bureau Country Ham Breakfast at the State Fair, Paul and Comer said allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp would be a financial boon for Kentucky.

They said it could be used for a variety of products, including paper and livestock bedding, particularly in the horse industry.

Comer said he is reviving the decade-old Industrial Hemp Commission in an effort to lift restrictions on the plant and that its chairman, former state Rep. Joe Barrows, D-Versailles, has agreed to step aside and let Comer chair the group.

Paul, R-Bowling Green, said industrial hemp is legal in most industrialized nations.

"If Kentucky were to legalize it, then Kentucky would be at a competitive advantage," Paul said. Comer said he wants to make Kentucky "the epicenter" of industrial hemp production.

The biggest obstacle to industrial hemp has been law-enforcement officials.

The Kentucky Sheriff's Association has opposed legalizing industrial hemp in the past but has not taken a position on the issue for Kentucky's 2013 General Assembly, said its executive director, Jerry Wagner of Ewing.

Wagner said that sheriffs have not been trained to distinguish between industrial hemp and marijuana and that they are concerned that allowing the growth of industrial hemp could lead to more marijuana.

Paul and Comer said proper regulation of permits to grow industrial hemp would address that concern.

Joining Paul and Comer at the news conference to show bipartisan support for industrial hemp were state Sens. Joey Pendleton, D-Hopkinsville; Dan Seum, R-Louisville; and Robin Webb, D-Grayson.

Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear said he is "open to the idea of industrial hemp, but I know law enforcement has some very serious concerns about the similarity to marijuana and what it might do to their enforcement actions."

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said the issue has not met with success in the state legislature, but "it is probably something we can take a look at."

Katie Moyer, chairman of the Kentucky Hemp Coalition from Hopkinsville, said the issue "has picked up a lot of steam in the last few years — both on the state and federal levels. We see the tide turning for it."

More than 1,800 people attended the breakfast, which featured speeches by Paul, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Beshear.

Beshear advocated congressional passage of a farm bill to provide financial relief for farmers in disasters, including this year's drought.

Beshear accused members of Congress of not working together.

McConnell said he wants a farm bill, but not one like the Senate approved earlier this year, which was 80 percent related to food stamps.

Paul's comments focused on the federal deficit, improving infrastructure and the need for more time for legislators to read and study bills before voting on them.

Beshear said before the breakfast that he expects to name a chief of staff within 10 days to replace Mike Haydon, who died unexpectedly earlier this month.

Read more Politics Wires stories from the Miami Herald

FILE - This March 14, 2013 file photo shows House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., and House Democratic leaders speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. The House Republicans’ campaign committee raised almost $10 million in March and has $31.2 million banked to defend the party’s majority, according to financial reports filed Sunday. The National Republican Congressional Committee’s $21.2 million fundraising haul in January, February and March gave the group its best first-quarter showing since 2003. It also puts the committee roughly $8 million ahead of its fundraising at this point in 2012. From left to right are Democratic Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel, D-N.Y., House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra, D-Calif.

    GOP campaign committee has $31M to hold House

    The House Republican campaign committee raised almost $10 million in March and has $31.2 million banked to defend the party's majority, according to financial reports filed Sunday.

First lady Michelle Obama, left, walks with President Barack Obama, and daughters Sasha and Malia, both partially obscured, from the White House to a motorcade to attend Easter services on Sunday, April 20, 2014, in Washington. The first family attended services at the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church in Washington.

    Obama, family cause a small stir at Easter service

    President Barack Obama may have expected a quiet Easter, but his presence rallied a congregation eager to greet him and his family to the front of the church.

Retire U.S. Army Col. Conrad Reynolds participates in a debate between Republican Congressional hopefuls in Little Rock, Ark., Saturday, April 19, 2014. Three area seeking the GOP nomination in the race for Congress in Arkansas' 2nd district.

    3 vying for Republican nomination for House seat

    The three candidates seeking the Republican nomination for a central Arkansas congressional seat are running on vows to cut taxes and regulations in Washington, but split sharply on who would be the strongest candidate in this fall's election.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category