Push to legalize industrial hemp met with mixed reaction

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - "This is an exciting issue," declared James Comer, the Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner, as the meeting to discuss legalizing industrial hemp started.

Comer said his goal is to push for the legalizing of industrial hemp across the state.

"Everyone knew that industrial hemp would grow well in Kentucky because it's a native crop," he said, adding, "We know the market is there. Again as Senator Paul said in his letter, the United States is the only industrialized nation that does not allow for the production of industrial hemp."

The pro-hemp push points to many industrial uses for the plant, including the ability to use the fibers in production. At the meeting, a car panel made from hemp was on display.

However, the idea is not winning over everyone.

"I think there are some concerns, and I think we all laid that on the table," voiced one person at the meeting.

"From a law enforcement concern it would be very difficult to identify who is cultivating illegal marijuana versus who is growing industrial hemp," added Major Anthony Terry of the Kentucky State Police.

Major Terry went on to say that hemp and marijuana look the same, smell the same, and the only difference is the amount of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).

Industrial hemp would be regulated to only contain .3 THC content. The State Police say the only way to know if a plant is industrial hemp or marijuana would be to have it tested. That means a back up in the state's lab and the cost to run the tests would really add up.

Still, advocates say this isn't about growing drugs. It's about growing the industry, and there will be a process.

"We have the ability to pinpoint exactly which fields will be growing. You'll register with the Department of Agriculture," stated Comer.

While the move is met with some controversy, many of the advocates, including Comer, say it's important for Kentucky to be on the cutting edge of this movement.

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