Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

March 7, 2013

AG opinion doesn’t clear up Hemp debate

FRANKFORT — An advisory opinion from Attorney General Jack Conway didn’t do anything to clear up disagreements between Republican Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and Democratic Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo about legislating a “regulatory framework” to grow hemp in Kentucky.

Comer has pushed hard for a bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Paul Hornback, which would set up such a framework, including allowing Comer to issue permits to grown hemp in 10-acre or larger plots.

Comer and Hornback claim it could position Kentucky to be first in the nation to grow the crop if a federal ban is lifted, creating thousands of jobs and providing farmers a valuable alternative crop.

Kentucky State Police and most other law enforcement spokesmen oppose the bill because they say it will make it more difficult to deal with illegal marijuana cultivation and Stumbo and others scoff at the economic benefit claims by Comer and hemp supporters.

The bill easily passed the state Senate but it created controversy in the House Agriculture Committee the chairman of which, Rep. Tom McKee, D-Cynthiana — presumably with Stumbo’s blessing — planned to amend the bill to call for further study.

But several committee members revolted, demanding a vote on Hornback’s original bill which ultimately passed. McKee voted for it along with every other Democrat on the committee.

Subsequently Stumbo, who contends Kentucky law already allows the cultivation of hemp if the federal government lifts its ban, requested an opinion on that question from Conway.

Conway issued his opinion Thursday — and predictably both Comer and Stumbo each claims it sides with him.

Maybe each has a claim. Conway’s ruling seemed to come down with a foot on either side of the fence.

It points out that current Kentucky law mandates that any change in the federal law be reflected in Kentucky laws and regulations — which would seem to support Stumbo’s position.

“What (Conway) said was, that’s right — if the federal government legalizes it then Kentucky automatically legalizes it.” Stumbo said. “All you have to do is comply with whatever requirements the federal government has.’

But Conway’s opinion goes on to say that if the federal ban on hemp is lifted but the federal government enacts no regulations on its cultivation, industrial hemp would essentially be unregulated in Kentucky — which would seem to support Comer.

Without Hornback’s legislation, Comer said, “Achieving a waiver from the federal government to be the first state to grow hemp will be almost impossible because there will be no safeguards in place. Other states have already passed similar programs. If we don’t act now, Speaker Stumbo will kill our chances to be first for these jobs.”

Stumbo said the federal government will never allow hemp cultivation “without a (federal) regulatory framework. You can bet on that.”

The bill went to the House Rules Committee Thursday where under House rules it can stay for a total of five days.

That means it could die there, because Thursday was the 26th day of the 30-day session.

Still Stumbo said there is still time to work out a compromise. But he also said any compromise he’d accept must address law enforcement concerns.

RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.

 

1
Text Only
Local News
  • jeremymccombs.jpg Jeremy McComb enjoys Tri-State's limelight

    Jeremy McComb’s career has been a wild ride, especialy in the last week.
    The lead single from his latest album was released on iTunes last week and it was a huge success right from the start.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Festival to showcase new plays

    The ACTC New Play Festival will feature 10 student and faculty written plays (short scenes, monologues, ten-minutes, one acts) that will premiere at 8 p.m. April 25 and 26 and at 2:30 p.m. April 27 at J.B. Sowards Theater on campus.

    April 17, 2014

  • 0420mongol1.JPG A ride to remember

    Riding 50 miles a day is no big deal to Amy Whelan.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0418melodies.jpg Melodies & Masterpieces returns Friday

    Anyone strolling through downtown Ashland at lunchtime Friday will have a chance to enjoy the artistry of one of the area’s most-respected guitarists as Chris Kitchen kicks off the return of the Melodies & Masterpieces series on Judd Plaza.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0418odell.jpg MSU professor appointed state geographer

    Dr. Gary O’Dell, a professor of physical geography at Morehead State University, was named state geographer in January.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bill to benefit AK Steel

    During the 11th hour of the General Assembly, a bill extending important sustainable incentives for AK Steel’s Ashland Works was pushed through for approval Tuesday night.
    House Bill 483 was created to extend the plant's incentives provided by the Kentucky Industrial Revitalization Act in 2004.

    April 16, 2014

  • Pathways begins autism services

    Pathways has extended its community outreach in a big way by providing services for families facing autism.
    Lena Harmon, central director for the company's Kentucky Impact Youth Council, said these services can save families the trouble of being added to long queue lines in Cincinnati and Louisville.
    Harmon said she has heard some families testify having to wait up to 12 months for appointments in faraway cities.

    April 16, 2014

  • Russell academic new dean at OUS

    Nicole Pennington chose a two-year community college degree track in 1991 because she wanted to enter the nursing work force with as little delay as possible.

    April 16, 2014

  • 1936 Indian lasting wedding gift

    When it came time to present his future wife with a symbol of his undying devotion, Virgil Erskine gave her a 1936 Indian motorcycle instead of a diamond ring.
    “I’ve always called it my wedding present. It’s my diamond ring,” said Charlene Erskine, explaining she and her husband were married at Sturgis, S.D., in 1983, found the antique Indian Sport Scout in 1984 and had it restored and on the road in 1985.

    April 16, 2014

  • Boyd Democrats take floor at Elks

    Boyd County Democrats met at the Elks Lodge for a matchup between candidates for two of the hottest primary races in Boyd County: sheriff and judge-executive.
    The candidates, sponsored by the Boyd County Democratic Women’s Club, each took to the podium to face the crowd Tuesday night and discuss the candidacy and platforms for the race that is still over a month away.

    April 15, 2014