Justice Department policy change could open door for Kentucky hemp

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - Lots of the headlines Thursday were all about marijuana in Colorado and Washington, but Kentucky Department of Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says a statement by the US Department of Justice also clears the way for industrial hemp here in Kentucky.

Ever since Kentucky's legislature passed Senate Bill 50 legalizing the production of hemp earlier this year, the law has been in limbo with hemp production still technically illegal according to federal law.

"We went to Washington, DC. We took a bipartisan group there and lobbied on its behalf. It's on the farm bill, whenever the farm bill passed," said Comer.

Yesterday, the Department of Justice announced it's deferring its right to challenge marijuana legalization laws in both Colorado and Washington. Today, Comer said that announcement opens the door to hemp production here in Kentucky.

"We believe that it allows for Senate Bill 50 to be implemented and we're excited and hopefully we can create a new opportunity for farmers and create some manufacturing jobs," said Comer.

Comer said it's still too early to say exactly what effect hemp production will have, but he says he's immediately going to start contacting businesses who are looking to buy hemp and get the ball rolling.

"What I will do from this point forward is contact every business that imports industrial hemp to the United States, every business that expressed an interest in processing it, and let them know that we believe they can set up shop here," said Comer.

The Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission will meet on September 12 to figure out the next steps.

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