Thursday, February 15, 2001

Ky. House backs hemp research

Bill OK'd to explore future of crop

The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — The protracted debate over the future of industrial hemp got its first official endorsement Wednesday in the Kentucky House.

        By a 66-32 vote, the House passed legislation that could lead to university research of the economic and agricultural future of hemp, which supporters say is a beneficial but harmless cousin to marijuana.

        “I think the potential is unlimited,” said Rep. Joe Barrows, D-Versailles.

        Opponents, though, say industrial hemp is virtually indistinguishable from marijuana to the untrained eye and will cause huge problems for law enforcement, which already struggles to control what many believe is actually Kentucky's largest cash crop.

        “The dangers to our schools and our families and our children are not worth the risk,” said Rep. Sheldon Baugh, R-Russellville.

        Rep. Steve Nunn, R-Glasgow, said there are already commercial uses for the fiber and oil of hemp. It is only a lack of knowledge that is keeping greater commercial opportunities from opening.

        The endorsement of Mr. Nunn's father, former Gov. Louie Nunn, the last Republican to serve as governor, has added some legitimacy to the pro-hemp debate.

        The bill faces a far more uncertain future in the Senate, where it now goes for consideration.


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