A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Bill affecting state’s growing industrial hemp industry is first to pass Kentucky House Tuesday

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Legislation affecting Kentucky’s burgeoning hemp industry is the first to clear the Kentucky House during the 2020 General Assembly.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Matthew Koch, R-Paris, told his colleagues it has the endorsement of The Kentucky Hemp Association and Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles.

“This bill incorporates language and recent guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture relating to hemp,” he told his colleagues on the House floor. “It also allows the University of Kentucky lab to contract with other labs to meet all the USDA standards for Kentucky hemp testing.  It sets requirements for transporting hemp and hemp products, with at least a 24-hour notice, and it can be emailed to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.”

House Speaker David Osborne listens to debate on a bill affecting the hemp industry on Tuesday. (Photo by Tom Latek, Kentucky Today)

It also contains an emergency clause, meaning it would become effective upon the governor’s signature, rather than take effect in July with other legislation.

Rep. Joe Graviss, D-Versailles, expressed support for the bill, adding, “We might want to consider a requirement to report the destination.  We need to account for the fact they have received what the processor said they were sending, so it matches.”

Graviss also wondered if the material would leave the state, to which Koch replied, “No sir.  This bill is attempting to create a safe harbor for in-state transportation.  We have no say on out of state transportation.”

Rep. Wilson Stone, D-Scottsville said, “We have given birth to a fast-growing industry here and we certainly need to do everything we can to help the folks who put time and labor into it to allow them to be prosperous and our Commonwealth to be prosperous.”

There were several members who complained the bill was stricter than federal law on the amount of THC allowed in the plants.

Still, the measure was approved on a 70-17 vote.

House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, told reporters afterwards the complaints were puzzling.

“It was a bill that passed without any dissenting votes in the Ag committee.  It was one that basically brings us into compliance with federal law.  So, I’m not sure why there was quite the discussion that there was, but it obviously prompted some questions from the members.”

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

The House also approved two other measures, sending them on to the Senate.  One would remove the five-year residency requirement to be appointed state veterinary or deputy state veterinarian.  It passed 67-20.

By voice vote, the House approved a resolution urging Congress to require car manufacturers to improve safety devices on automobiles for the protection of children left in cars.

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The hemp legislation is House Bill 236, the state veterinarian measure is HB 238, while House Resolution 11 urges Congress to help protect children left in cars.

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