Politics
4:42 pm
Wed November 27, 2013

Kentucky Officials Send Letter to DEA Urging Hemp Legalization

James Comer
Credit File photo

A group of Kentucky officials have sent a letter to the Drug Enforcement Agency asking for clarity on a state law that would permit the cultivation of industrial hemp.

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer drafted the letter, which was co-signed by Sen. Rand Paul and Reps. Thomas Massie and John Yarmuth, as well as Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission chairman Brian Furnish. 

"Simply put," the letter states, "it is our position that neither federal nor state law, nor current [Department of Justice] guidance, prohibits the production of industrial hemp in Kentucky. We respectfully request that agency inform us immediately if it disagrees with the clear language of federal [Controlled Substance Act] policies regarding state law and marijuana. "

The Kentucky General Assembly passed HB 50 this year, which allows for the cultivation and research of the crop in the event that the federal government waives its ban on hemp. Therefore, Comer says, in order for hemp production to move forward, the industry still needs an assurance from the federal government that the crop is legal, unlike its cousin, marijuana.

“For the sake of the processors who are wanting to move into the state and make an investment, and for the sake of the farmers who are gonna be growing it, that we have certainty and assurances from the federal government that they’re not gonna get anybody in trouble,” Comer said.

In an opinion on the matter in September, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway issued said that under the federal Controlled Substances Act hemp is indistinguishable from marijuana, and therefore illegal from a law enforcement perspective. Unlike marijuana, hemp can't be used as a drug because it doesn't contain enough of marijuana's psychoactive ingredient, known as THC.

Comer says he and Conway will meet "soon" to discuss the issue, which has emerged as a kind of proxy battle between the potential 2015 gubernatorial candidates. Neither Comer nor Conway have officially announced their candidacies.

A spokesman for the DEA said they have not officially received the letter yet and declined to provide comment.