Photo by Gene Linzy
By Katie Moyer
Last week Kentucky stepped forward as the leader of the hemp movement with an historic announcement from our Agriculture Commissioner, James Comer. Commissioner Comer, along with our Junior Senator Rand Paul, and State Senators Joey Pendleton, Dan Seum, and Robin Webb, broke party lines by holding a bi-partisan press conference to announce the re-activation of the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission.
Many supporters and followers of the hemp movement were not even aware that the Commission existed until Thursday’s press conference, which was situated in front of the high-profile Kentucky Farm Bureau Annual Ham Breakfast. The Commission was actually created back in 2001, under House Bill 100. That bill was the framework for legalized industrial hemp, and created a Commission of seventeen members who would lead the charge for the most valuable cash crop Kentucky has to offer. The legislation also appointed the Agriculture Department as the regulatory agency for licensing of industrial hemp farmers. Unbeknownst to most Kentuckians, the Industrial Hemp Commission did in fact hold one official meeting, never to meet again…
…that is, until now.
Citing the need for an alternative to tobacco and a boost for Kentucky’s economy, Commissioner Comer announced that the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission would begin holding meetings again. The current chair of the Commission, former legislator Joe Barrows, will officially step down as the chair, and his first action will be to place the Agriculture Commissioner as the new chair of the Commission. The Commission will start to hold it’s official meetings and make annual reports to the Governor as is required by Kentucky Revised Statute 260.863
Senator Rand Paul
This leaves the grassroots supporters of hemp at a crossroads. We already know that the Commissioner of Agriculture supports hemp. We know that our Senator Rand Paul supports hemp. And we know that a good majority of the state legislators support hemp (or are coming around slowly but surely.) In fact, many new candidates for state and local offices openly support hemp. But where does that leave us? Even if we pass a hemp bill in the Commonwealth, we still have to contend with federal law enforcement and the DEA. Well, that answer lies in the power of the people. There are two battle lines in this movement, those lines are in the state and federal government. And there are powerful moves that we can make on both fronts.
In the Commonwealth, the next step for the Kentucky Hemp Coalition (that means you!) is to start spreading the message to law enforcement about industrial hemp. The County Sheriff in each of Kentucky’s 120 counties stands to benefit from the legalization of industrial hemp. If you are a supporter of hemp, you can help fight this battle by educating your local Sheriff about Senator Pendleton’s hemp bill, Senate Bill 41
, especially Section 3 of the bill which details the responsibilities of the Sheriffs’ offices, as well as their potential treasure trove from licensing fees.
On the federal level, the most important thing we can do to actually get these seeds in the ground is to put some serious grassroots pressure on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. According to Ben Droz
, the D.C. liaison for Vote Hemp, a non-profit organization devoted to legalization of industrial hemp nationwide, Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid are the two most important targets of our educational battle. The Senate leaders are two of the most powerful men in Washington, D.C. and may prove to be tenacious road blocks to the hemp movement. Messages can be left for Mitch McConnell at (202) 224-2541
and for Harry Reid at (202) 224-3542
. Please ask them to co-sponsor S3501, the Industrial Hemp Farming Bill authored by Tom Wyden (D-OR) and co-sponsored by our own Senator Rand Paul (R-KY.) You can also contact your U.S. Representative and ask them to co-sponsor Congressman Ron Paul’s Hemp Farming Bill, H.R. 1831. Contact information for your Representative is located at http://www.house.gov/representatives/
If you’ve already called your legislators, talked to your Sheriff, and told all your friends about industrial hemp, there is one more way you can help directly. It’s the least known method of progressing the movement, but it may prove to be the most effective method. When the Industrial Hemp Commission was created, the KY Treasury was set up with the Industrial Hemp Program Fund, to offset expenses incurred by the Industrial Hemp Program and the Commission. The fund is supposed to receive money from the state, but is also allowed to receive money from private donations, gifts, or grants. If you want to see your hard earned money going to advance the movement with real and dramatic results, checks can be made out to the Industrial Hemp Program Fund and sent directly to the Agriculture Department in Frankfort. If we really want to make an impact, and make our voices heard, then let’s flood the KY Agriculture Department with checks for the Hemp Program Fund!
Let’s prove to Agriculture Commissioner Comer that Kentucky supports industrial hemp, that we want those jobs, and if Frankfort legislators won’t fund the program to legalize hemp, then by the grace of God and the great state of Kentucky, We The People will do it ourselves!!