By BRUCE SCHREINER
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) â¿¿ Industrial hemp supporters hit a roadblock Wednesday when a Kentucky House committee took no action on a bill that would set up strict state oversight of the one-time agricultural staple if the federal government ever pardons the illegal crop.
The House Agriculture and Small Business Committee heard nearly two hours of testimony but took no vote on the measure, which would allow the state agriculture department to license hemp growers if production becomes legal. A motion seeking a vote was ruled out of order by committee Chairman Tom McKee.
McKee wants to revamp the bill to seek a university-led study of hemp, which thrived in Kentucky generations ago but has been banned for decades since the federal government classified it as a controlled substance related to marijuana. Hemp has a negligible content of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high.
McKee, D-Cynthiana, said he planned to reconvene the committee later Wednesday to resume reviewing the legislation.
Hemp supporters, led by Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, a Republican, urged the committee to resist a rewrite and approve the version that easily passed the Senate.
"This issue symbolizes what's wrong with the Kentucky General Assembly," Comer told reporters after the committee hearing. "The majority of the legislators want to do good things, they want to create jobs, they want to help farmers, but it gets bogged down in the political bickering."
McKee, a northern Kentucky farmer, insisted his proposed changes would be a "much more aggressive" way to promote hemp. His version would enable researchers to seek a federal permit to allow experimental hemp production in hopes of having a crop this year, he said.
"The fact that we could get some in the ground this year growing, we'd be a big step ahead," he told reporters. "Our farmers could actually see it growing."