Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) on Tuesday added his name to a list of skeptics unwilling to support a state push to plant the seeds for a potential legal hemp industry.
According to the Associated Press, Beshear told reporters that he wasn't ready to back legislation to establish licensing and regulation procedures for industrial hemp, set to go into effect only if a federal effort to legalize the plant is passed. The state Senate passed the bill last week, sending it to the state House, where it is expected to face more serious opposition.
Kentucky Sens. Rand Paul (R) and Mitch McConnell (R) joined two other Democratic co-sponsors last week in introducing the Industrial Hemp Farming Act. In their announcement, the senators argued that the nation was neglecting a multi-million dollar industry because consumers are currently forced to import hemp-based products. Under their bill, any hemp strands with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content under 0.3 percent would be considered a non-drug. According to current Drug Enforcement Administration classifications, both hemp and marijuana with higher levels of THC are listed as Schedule I controlled substances, alongside drugs such as LSD, heroin and ecstasy.
Beshear joins state House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D) and the state law enforcement community in his concern that the measure could complicate efforts to eradicate more potent strains of marijuana, which would still remain illegal under federal law.
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, one of the state's most active supporters of hemp legalization efforts, has claimed that illegal marijuana growers wouldn't hide their plants amid legal hemp crops because the two would cross-pollinate and lead to less potent pot plants.