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Ky. Lawmaker Pushes Industrial Hemp Farming

Weedpipe

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – A Kentucky lawmaker has introduced legislation to legalize industrial hemp as a cash crop and a source for alternative fuels.

Sen. Joey Pendleton, a Democrat from Hopkinsville in southern Kentucky, said the time is right to cash in on hemp, because the plant is already legal for research purposes in Kentucky, along with seven other states, and Congress has legislation before it to decriminalize hemp.

Industrial hemp is used in alternative automobile fuels and in such products as paper, cloths, cosmetics, and carpet. Currently, all hemp included in products sold in the United States must be imported.

Pendleton's bill, introduced for the 2010 session, would require people wanting to grow or process industrial hemp to be licensed by the state Department of Agriculture.

The legislation would require criminal history checks of growers, and sheriffs would have to monitor and randomly test industrial hemp fields.

The bill also calls for a fee of $150 or $5 for each acre industrial hemp grown – whichever is greater – to be divided equally between the state and appropriate sheriff's department.

Federal law prohibits American farmers from growing hemp. It is related to the illegal drug marijuana, and under federal law, parts of the plant are considered controlled substances. Proponents have argued that industrial hemp contains too little of the mind-altering chemical THC to make people high.

The Industrial Hemp Farming Act, introduced in Congress in April by Reps. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Ron Paul, R-Texas, would require the federal government to respect state laws allowing hemp production.

Whether growing industrial hemp is profitable remains unclear. Studies have been inconclusive. Scott Smith, dean of the University of Kentucky's Agriculture school, served on an industrial hemp study commission in the 1990s and remains skeptical hemp about whether it can be profitable.

But, the idea is drawing praise from Kentucky's farmers.

Margaret McCauley's family owns the remnants of an old hemp processing plant in Versailles in central Kentucky.

"I think industrial hemp would do a lot for the farming community," said McCauley, who has preserved artifacts from decades ago when hemp was grown legally in Kentucky.

Phillip Garnett, a Christian County farmer, said he plans to go to Canada with Pendleton to investigate industrial hemp farming as a potential "new source of income and energy."

"I'm always looking for alternative crops, and it sounds like it makes sense," Garnett said.



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Source: The Associated Press
Contact: The Associated Press: Ky. lawmaker pushes industrial hemp farming
Copyright: 2009 The Associated Press
Website:The Associated Press: Ky. lawmaker pushes industrial hemp farming
 
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