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Hemp Gaining Momentum in General Assembly, But Not with Hal Rogers

Support for industrial hemp is growing in Kentucky behind the efforts of Agriculture Commissioner James Comer.

With last week's endorsement from U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, Comer now has the majority of the state’s federal delegation behind him.

Both senators and half of the state's congressmen have publicly endorsed legalizing industrial hemp. They say Kentucky is well-suited to be a leader in growing hemp for fiber and oil.

But the push does have its opponents.

Law enforcement agencies reject hemp for a number of reasons; most importantly because it's a cousin to marijuana. And as support increases, law enforcement has remained firm on this point.

Before Kentucky can grow hemp, it has to be legalized on the state and federal levels. The issue will be taken up at a state Senate committee meeting in a week. It's expected to pass in that chamber, but faces a tougher road in the Kentucky House.

Hal Rogers Firm in Opposition to Hemp Legalization

The senior member of Kentucky’s U.S. House delegation says he remains opposed to legalizing hemp, despite the recent momentum behind the effort. Congressman Hal Rogers is not joining several of his Kentucky GOP colleagues in the effort to change state and federal hemp laws.

The Somerset Republican says he remains unconvinced that industrial hemp’s economic potential outweighs the concerns of law enforcement groups that oppose legalization. In a statement issued by the Fifth District Congressman, Rogers said his first concern is the challenge drug agents would face in trying to distinguish hemp from marijuana.

And Rogers isn’t sure hemp will bring the economic windfall for Kentucky farmers and small businesses that supporters have predicted, saying the country should instead "focus on more important issues like enacting pension reform, getting our federal deficits under control and tackling the existing drug epidemic.”

Two other Kentucky Congressmen, Republican Thomas Massie and Democrat John Yarmuth, have been vocal supporters of hemp legalization.

Kevin is the News Director at WKU Public Radio. He has been with the station since 1999, and was previously the Assistant News Director, and also served as local host of Morning Edition.
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