Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

June 13, 2013

Crop still banned

McConnell, Paul fail in effort to legalize industrial hemp

The Independent

ASHLAND — When their colleagues in the U.S. Senate rejected their efforts to legalize industrial hemp production as part of the Senate farm bill,  Kentucky’s two Republican senators — Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and freshman Rand Paul — reacted to the Senate refusal to include their hemp proposal in the bill by saying they would oppose the comprehensive farm bill.

Give McConnell and Paul credit. When the Kentucky General Assembly earlier this year approved a bill that would clear the path for Kentucky farmers to grow industrial hemp, legislators knew that the state law would be worthless unless the federal ban on industrial hemp were lifted.  However, McConnell and Paul both promised to work in the Senate to lift the federal ban on industrial hemp and they have been working to do just that, but with little success.

The two Republicans said Senate Democrats are blocking consideration of additional amendments to the farm bill, including their hemp proposal.

Meanwhile, Gov. Steve Beshear has told President Barack Obama in a letter that Kentucky wants to explore industrial hemp production. In his letter to the president, Beshear asked that the Office of Drug Control Policy, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. attorney general’s office work with the Drug Enforcement Administration to identify economic opportunities that wouldn’t negatively impact drug eradication efforts.

Kentucky lawmakers passed a bill earlier this year that lays the groundwork for hemp farming if the Drug Enforcement Administration were to lift restrictions on the crop.

Proponents contend that hemp could be an important crop for farmers in Kentucky, where the plant thrived before being outlawed by the federal government. Opponents, led by the Kentucky State Police, contend  that it is almost impossible to distinguish industrial hemp from marijuana and legalizing hemp would only make it easier to grow pot in a state where a lot of illegal marijuana is already grown.

We commend our two U.S. senators for fighting for Kentucky farmers by legalize a once-thriving crop in the state. However, when it comes to voting for or against the Senate farm bill, the two senators should weigh the pros and cons of the bill in terms of whether it will be a plus or a minus for Kentucky farmers. To base their vote on the farm bill on the failures of their effort to legalize industrial hemp could be considered shortsighted and even childish.