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Kentucky Producers: Federal Rollback of Marijuana Enforcement Won’t Affect Hemp

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Matt Markgraf, WKMS
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Kentucky’s industrial hemp research program is on a trajectory for growth with highest number of approved applicants this year.  Hemp’s association with Marijuana however, remains a  hurdle for producers.

In a recent breakout session at the American Farm Bureau National Convention in Nashville hemp supporters discussed legislation to remove the crop from the DEA’s schedule one substance list.  Hemp is only legal in states with certified industrial hemp pilot programs like Kentucky. The federal government currently classifies hemp as an illegal substance due to its similarities to marijuana.

 

West Kentucky hemp processor Katie Moyer says Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ move to rescind the ‘Cole memo,’ which reflects a passive federal policy on the enforcement of cannabis laws, won’t affect hemp or the proposed Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2017.

 

“Jeff Sessions seems to be acting pretty much of his own accord. It doesn't seem like there's a big appetite in D.C. for doing the things that Sessions is doing.” Moyer said.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles has said the 2014 Farm Bill gives clear authority to conduct an Industrial Hemp pilot program, regardless of Marijuana enforcement. Moyer said what could happen in the 2018 Farm Bill remains uncertain.

 

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture has approved more than 12,000 acres for growers to cultivate industrial hemp for research purposes in 2018.

 

The 225 approved participants must pass background checks and consent to inspections. Last year, participants planted the highest number of acres in recent history at more than 3,200 acres.

 

 

Kentucky Congressmen have filed federal legislation to ease restrictions on hemp; including the most filling by Congressman Andy Barr. H.R. 4711 which asks for protections for institutions that provide financial services to hemp businesses.

Nicole Erwin is a Murray native and started working at WKMS during her time at Murray State University as a Psychology undergraduate student. Nicole left her job as a PTL dispatcher to join the newsroom after she was hired by former News Director Bryan Bartlett. Since, Nicole has completed a Masters in Sustainable Development from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia where she lived for 2 1/2 years.
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