Reality Check: The great hemp debate

It is a battle pitting state police against farmers.

Troopers worry industrial hemp will lead to more marijuana in the state, the Kentucky Agriculture Department says it will lead to more jobs and money.

The debate is already heating up in Frankfort, this week a bill to regulate industrial hemp passed its first step in the legislature.

So will industrial hemp be Kentucky's next big cash crop or just another way for people looking to sell drugs to cash in?

There are thousands of products, from food, clothing, soap even milk.

The one thing all of those items have in common, hemp.

"The amount of products from hemp that this country imports is really rather amazing," said Larry Cox, the Executive Director of the Kentucky Division of the Consumer and Environmental Protection.

Cox, is just one of many pushing for legislation to regulate the growing of industrial hemp in the state.

Kentucky was a leader in the production of the once healthy cash crop and some hope its poised to make a comeback..

According to Cox, his office has seen almost border to border interest in bringing the crop back.

The Caudill Seed Company in Louisville is one business with high interest.

The 66 year old company is the state's largest seed supplier.

Pat Caudill is the president, but he was a farmer first and now supports the return of industrial hemp and what it means to the state.

"With the loss of tobacco and with the coal industry losing so many jobs this state needs some other products that can help generate jobs," said Pat Caudill, President of Caudill Seed Company.

Caudill employs over 160 people at his seed and organic food processing plants and says he could only add more jobs if industrial hemp gets the green light.

"Well we would like to be able to at least start selling the seed to farmers throughout the state of Kentucky," said Caudill.

While proponents of Senate bill 50 see the future of fields being full of industrial hemp, others question its similarity in look and smell to its genetic cousin marijuana.

Experts say industrial hemp has less than one percent of THC, the chemical in marijuana that causes a high.

Still opponents like the Kentucky State Police says testing will need to be done on crops planted here, something they also say will cost money.

The concern, fields of marijuana being mixed in with industrial hemp.

And that is where KSP says they would have to test what is being grown, the Kentucky Agriculture Department says they can do it for a cost of only $20.

The Kentucky Agriculture Department says registering and monitoring is the key.

"We would use GPS plotting to determine exactly where that crop is going to go and stake if for the farmer. That is where he or she has to grow that crop, we will know exactly where that crop is in that field," said Larry Cox.

WKYT went along to see how it that GPS monitoring would work.

Farmers looking to grow at least 10 acres of industrial hemp would be subject to their land being plotted out by Department of Agriculture inspectors and be monitored by a watchful eye.

While some will fight the prospect for some plots of bare Kentucky land, others are choosing to fight for its success and what a small seed could do to potentially revitalize the state's economy.

Larry Cox says there is no reason why the farmers of Kentucky cannot make an economic success of this.

So even if Senate Bill 50 passes, it still has a long way to go.

The state would have to apply for a waiver from the federal government to allow the growth of industrial hemp.

Right now, industrial hemp production in the U.S. is only allowed for research.

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