By BRUCE SCHREINER
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) â¿¿ Momentum for a bill laying the groundwork for a possible industrial hemp comeback skidded to a halt Wednesday when a Kentucky House panel failed to vote on the measure, which would set up state oversight of the one-time agricultural staple if the federal government pardons the illegal crop.
The House Agriculture and Small Business Committee heard nearly two hours of testimony but took no action on the measure, which would allow the state agriculture department to license hemp growers if production becomes legal. A lawmaker's motion seeking a vote was ruled out of order by committee Chairman Tom McKee.
McKee wants to overhaul the bill to allow 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, never called for a vote on his proposed substitute, and hemp supporters said it showed he didn't have enough committee support.
Later Wednesday, McKee reconvened the committee briefly during a recess on the House floor, but no action was taken on the bill.
Hemp supporters, led by Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, a Republican, criticized McKee for stalling the bill.
They urged the committee to resist a rewrite and to advance the version that easily passed the GOP-led Senate. They said the bill would put Kentucky at the forefront of the national hemp movement if the federal ban on the crop is ever lifted. The bill also includes safeguards to monitor hemp production that would benefit law enforcement, they said.
Comer said that McKee â¿¿ his longtime House colleague â¿¿ had "pulled the rug out from under all of us."