Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Comer plans to suggest hemp-legalizing legislation

By Jackson French
Source: bgdailynews.com

In a congressional environment where industrial hemp has prominent supporters on both sides of the aisle, U.S. Rep. James Comer, R-Tompkinsville, aims to present a bill during the current legislative session calling for national legalization of the crop.
Comer spokesman Michael Gossum said hemp’s usefulness in a wide variety of manufacturing processes has made full-scale legalization of the crop a priority for numerous Republicans and Democrats alike.
“I think they realize it’s a viable crop and it kind of makes sense now for people to cultivate and grow (it) across the country,” Gossum said.
In 2011, when Comer was running for Kentucky agriculture commissioner, a position he filled from 2012 to 2016, his campaign was partly built on reviving the once-thriving hemp industry in Kentucky.
“This is something he’s been very into,” Gossum said. “He’s the one who led the charge on that here in Kentucky.”
Sam Offerdahl, a spokeswoman for Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said hemp legalization has support on both sides of the aisle because of the potential the crop has to strengthen the country’s industry and agriculture. Wyden co-hosted Hemp on the Hill, an annual industrial hemp expo, with Comer and several other members of Congress.
“It’s an agricultural issue. It’s a jobs issue,” she said. “There’s a lot of opportunity for it to boost agriculture and jobs but it’s held back because of its association with marijuana.”
Last week, Comer attended Hemp on the Hill for the fifth time, hosting it along with U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky.; Jared Polis, D-Colo.; and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore. Bowling Green-based Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and Wyden served as honorary co-hosts.
“The issue is very important to me, and I’m glad to see us working in a bipartisan manner to tear down unnecessary regulations on a crop that can help make so many different products,” Comer said in a news release.
Kentucky, Colorado and Oregon are three of the 28 states that have authorized industrial hemp pilot studies or production under the Agricultural Act of 2014, also known as the Farm Bill.
The Farm Bill allows states to implement hemp pilot programs that can include licensed growers producing the crop for research purposes, though widespread hemp production remains illegal at the federal level.
Blumenauer, in the release, said acceptance of hemp has been growing across the country in recent years and shouldn’t be seen as a problem.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous that the cultivation of hemp is still illegal at the federal level,” he said. “Across the country and across the aisle, attitudes have changed on hemp, and over half of all states have now legalized its production. This shouldn’t be an issue. Let’s remove this misguided and ineffective ban once and for all.”

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