Stumbo: House won't vote on hemp bill; backer holds out hope

lblackford@herald-leader.comMarch 11, 2013 

Industrial hemp in Manitoba, Canada. The yellow flowered plants are volunteer canola ( meaning the field was sown to canola the previous year and these are plants that grew from seed that fell on the ground at harvest.) Laura Rance/Manitoba Co-operator

A measure to regulate hemp production in Kentucky will not get a vote in the House during the 2013 General Assembly, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Monday morning.

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said time had run out for the measure, which was pushed by Republican Agriculture Commissioner James Comer. Monday was the 27th day of the 30-workday legislative session.

Senate Bill 50 and other legislation stuck in the House Rules Committee on Monday morning will not get considered by the full chamber, Stumbo said.

"It's a shame that he's acting so proudly in killing the only jobs bill of this session," said Holly Harris VonLuehtre, a spokeswoman for Comer. "It appears to be a one-man band running the House."

VonLuehtre called Stumbo's assertion that there isn't enough time to consider the hemp bill "hypocritical," saying that bills are routinely taken from the Rules Committee and placed on the House's daily agenda, known as the Orders of the Day.

Senate Bill 50, sponsored by Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, would set up a licensing framework for Kentucky farmers to grow hemp if federal restrictions are lifted. The bill had broad bipartisan support, including from several members of Kentucky's congressional delegation, but it was opposed by the Kentucky State Police and other law enforcement agencies.

Hornback acknowledged Monday that the bill's future looks bleak, but he said there's time for Stumbo to reverse course.

"I think there is still opportunity out there to deal with it," he said. "I hope the speaker recognizes the outstanding support for it and deals with it as it deserves."

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said the Senate gave the measure full consideration even though he is neither a proponent nor opponent of the measure.

The Republican-led Senate approved the bill last month. After several weeks of delay, the House Agriculture and Small Business Committee passed the bill last week.

Stumbo has said the bill is unnecessary because state law already requires Kentucky to adopt federal regulations regarding hemp farming.

Linda Blackford: (859) 231-1359. Twitter: @lbblackford.

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