The state Senate has passed a bill aimed at creating a hemp industry in Kentucky, though the bill's future appears to lack the support of key government leaders. The Senate's 31-6 approval of a bill establishing oversight for Kentucky industrial hemp farmer if hemp were made legal federally comes with the release of a poll stating that most Kentuckians believe legalized hemp would create jobs.
High-profile opponents remain unmoved.
And the hemp bill's fate in the state House isn't so clear.
The poll, conducted by RunSwitch Public Relations and Harper Polling, stated that 65 percent of Kentuckians believe that hemp would create jobs—and that 16 percent believed that law enforcement concerns about hemp took priority.
Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, a Republican, is championing the hemp bill, saying the plant can be used in a variety of products and would lead to job growth. Kentucky law enforcement—including Kentucky State Police—worry that marijuana plants could be sneaked into hemp fields, complicating eradication efforts and overwhelming state labs that test the plants.
Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth and Republican U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie spoke in support of the hemp bill to the state Senate agriculture committee.
But Gov. Steve Beshear isn't among the supporters.
"We may be yelling about things very loudly—that don't really mean too much right now," Beshear said.
Beshear said law enforcement concerns also give him pause on the hemp issue. He also said the hemp industry seems to be marginal in other places where it is legal and was undeterred by the new poll numbers.
And House Speaker Greg Stumbo, like the governor a Democrat, is also siding with law enforcement on the matter.
Recent studies, Stumbo said, show that hemp production would be minimal across the U.S.
"It's hardly what people are saying it is," Stumbo said of hemp's economic potential.