By Steve Elliott
Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo says he plans to file a bill in the upcoming General Assembly session to allow medical marijuana in the Bluegrass State, but he says its chances are slim.
Outright opposition to medicinal cannabis among lawmakers has softened, reports Gregory A. Hall at The Courier-Journal, but many lawmakers just haven't yet discovered the courage to vote for it.
"I think it's going to get some play this session; I don't know how much," said Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg).
The steady progress of medical marijuana legislation in other states is seen as increasing the likelihood for positive change in Kentucky. State residents expressed support for medical marijuana in Bluegrass Polls for the past two years.
Last session, timid lawmakers passed a no-risk "CBD-only" law that allows non-psychoactive cannabidiol oil to be used to control seizures. Two bills to allow broader medical marijuana use died, including one in the House that made it out of the Health and Welfare Committee before dying in the Judiciary Committee.
By Steve Elliott
Kentucky farmers and processors who want to grow industrial hemp for research in 2015 should apply now.
Several Kentucky universities, including Western Kentucky University, grew hemp this year for the first time in decades, reports Lisa Autry at WKU Public Radio.
That first round of pilot grows yielded data about production methods, seed varieties, and processing techniques, according to researchers.
"This past year we were as far west as Murray and as far east as Bath County," said Adam Watson, industrial hemp program coordinator at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. "We'd like to see that continuation or even expan sion on either end. Definitely we have different growing environments in Kentucky."
Applications to grow hemp are available on the Kentucky Department of Agriculture's website at www.kyagr/hemp. Applicants selected will undergo background checks and site visits.
Photo: Western Kentucky University assistant gardener Jenny Conner helps agriculture student Corinn Sprigler cut down hemp plants on the WKU farm (Lisa Autry/WKU)
By Steve Elliott
U.S. Senator and likely 2016 Presidential candidate Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) all but admitted in a Friday interview that he smoked marijuana in his youth, but called it a "mistake."
Paul said voters shouldn't confuse his push for reducing criminal penalties for drugs as an endorsement of drug use, reports the Associated Press.
"I think drugs, marijuana included, aren't good for you," Paul said in an interview with Louisville television station WHAS. "I don't want to be someone who is seen as being this person advocating for drug use. I think they're not a good idea."
"Let's just say I wasn't a choir boy when I was in college and that I can recognize that kids make mistakes, and I can say that I made mistakes when I was a kid," Paul said in the interview, broadcast Friday night.
Paul told a group of Northern Kentucky University law students last month that he wouldn't support lifting the federal ban on marijuana use, but said he didn't want the federal government to overturn state laws that legalize it.
The Hemp Industries Association (HIA) and Vote Hemp have announced that the sixth annual Hemp History Week will be held June 1-7, 2015. Surging with momentum following a monumental year in 2014, wherein hemp was both legally cultivated and harvested in Kentucky, Colorado and Vermont, this year's campaign will focus on the increased acreage of hemp on U.S. farms with the theme Sow the Seed.
Throughout all 50 states, more than 1,100 grassroots events will bring documentary film screenings, cooking demonstrations, retail promotions, educational outreach, spring plantings and hemp home building courses to the public, catalyzing movement on the issue of hemp legalization nationwide.
To learn more about Hemp History Week, visit: www.HempHistoryWeek.com.
Spring Hemp Plantings
HIA and Vote Hemp will work with farmers in states that have legalized the cultivation of hemp, to coordinate events this spring to celebrate the planting of hemp crops. The events will be open to both community and media attendance.
An environmentally sustainable crop, hemp helps restore nutrients to soil via phytoremediation, and does not require chemical inputs of pesticides and herbicides to flourish. As farmers open their hemp fields to the public, grassroots activists will offer educational events about industrial hemp—its history, agronomy, health and ecological benefits—as we join together to sow the seed.
The Health Benefits of Hemp
For the first time in two generations, the Industrial Hemp crop has been legally harvested in Kentucky. The hemp plots were grown in compliance with Kentucky state law and in accordance with Sec. 7606 of the 2014 US Farm Bill (Agricultural Act of 2014) that authorized hemp cultivation for research purposes in states that permit Hemp farming.
The agricultural excitement spurred some of Ohio's long-time hemp advocates to travel south to meet the farmers and gain first-hand experience with the plant that cannabis prohibition has kept out of American fields until very recently.
In votes often favoring Hemp by wide margins, 20 states have legalized the crop, defining it as Cannabis Sativa L., having .03 percent THC or less (no drug/narcotic value). The reforms are welcome in Kentucky, where tobacco growers are hurting for alternative crops.
Even with the non-drug status being declared federally, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) seized viable hemp seed en route to Kentucky from Italy, as outdated policy under the Controlled Substances Act doesn't recognize the scientifically-demonstrated chemical distinctions between "marihuana," a Schedule I narcotic, and hemp, a viable agricultural cash crop commodity. Kentucky sued the DEA to release the seeds, and prevailed in federal court, allowing the research plots to proceed.
By Steve Elliott
The first legal hemp harvest in Kentucky in 70 years has begun at the University of Kentucky. Researchers on Tuesday cut their test plot, which will now remain in the field for two weeks.
The 10-foot stalks will remain on the ground at Spindletop Farm for "retting," the process through which they break apart, said David Williams, an agronomist at the UK College of Agriculture, reports Janet Patton at the Herald-Leader.
"Microbes break down the tissues of the stem," Williams said. "The outside tissues form the bast fibers and the inside form the hurd fibers."
Thirteen varieties of hemp were sown this spring at the University; each will be evaluated for fiber and seed production. More test plots are at other universities in the state, including Murray State.
"It was a good growing season for many crops, not just hemp," Williams said. "Precipitation was excellent this year and more than adequate for growth.
"The only downside to the growing season was that we planted a little bit late, but I don't think that had much effect on the crop," he said.
The seeds had been held up for two weeks in Louisville by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which blocked them because the Kentucky Department of Agriculture didn't have a controlled substance import permit.
The 21st annual conference of the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) will be held Sunday, September 21 and Monday, September 22 at the Phoenix Park Hotel in Washington, DC.
Business leaders and farmers in the hemp industry in North America and from abroad will meet during the two-day event to discuss strategies and plans to legalize industrial hemp and return hemp to the American agrarian landscape once again.
The conference will include expert speakers, hemp exhibits and sales, luncheon, silent auction, networking dinner, presentations, panel discussion and updates on industry developments and expanding markets for hemp products.
Speakers from the hemp industry and movement will present at the conference including Doug Fine, author of Hemp Bound, John Roulac, President of Nutiva, Steve Allin, featured speaker and author of Building with Hemp, Christina Volgyesi, Marketing Director of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, and other leaders in the hemp industry.
The 21st conference occurs at a significant moment in hemp history, as the first legal hemp harvests in the U.S. in decades will be taking place in Colorado, Kentucky and Vermont this fall. Exceeding $581 million in 2013 annual sales according to SPINS market data and HIA estimates, hemp is among the fastest growing categories for food and consumer products in the U.S.
In addition to presentations on hemp manufacturing, agronomy, and other industry issues, a special panel discussion focusing on new cannabidiol (CBD) research and its market potential will take place on Sunday.
REDEEM Act Helps Formerly Incarcerated Seal Conviction Records, Eliminates Barriers to Employment, Public Assistance, and Re-Entry
Drug Policy Alliance: Criminal Justice Reform is Good Policy and Good Politics
Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rand Paul (R-KY) on Tuesday will introduce the REDEEM Act, groundbreaking bipartisan legislation that makes it easier for formerly incarcerated individuals to reintegrate into society and provides greater rights to juvenile offenders.
The amendment comes on the heels of an amendment offered several weeks ago by Senators Booker and Paul that would prohibit the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from arresting and prosecuting people in compliance with their state medical marijuana laws. Senator Paul also has a bill with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) that would provide federal judges more discretion in sentencing.
A bipartisan bill reforming mandatory minimums introduced by Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) has already passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and is awaiting floor action.
“The fact that two young and rising stars of both parties, both rumored to be considering future White House runs, are so passionately embracing criminal justice reform shows how politically popular these issues have become,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Voters want reform and smart elected officials know that. This legislation is good policy and good politics.”
By Steve Elliott
The U.S. House of Representatives early Friday cut off funding for the Drug Enforcement Administration's interference in state-legal industrial hemp research, a sharp rebuke to the beleaguered agency less than a month after DEA agents seized hemp seeds meant for Kentucky's pilot program.
Two hemp-related amendments to the DEA's funding bill passed, reports Ryan J. Reilly at The Huffington Post. The amendments, introduced by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) stop the Department of Justice, including the DEA, from blocking states' importation of hemp seeds, and from stopping the states from implementing laws authorizing industrial hemp cultivation made legal under this year's federal Farm Bill.
Massie's amendment passed 246-162, and Bonamici's passed 237-1780. The Senate will likely look at its own appropriations bill for the DEA and DOJ, and the House hemp amendments would have to survive that joint conference before taking effect. The House also voted to cut off funding for the DEA's medical marijuana raids in states where it is legal.
"The DEA has more important things to do than interfere with legal activities at the state level," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) "We need to remove this cloud of uncertainty."
By Steve Elliott
Hemp has been legally planted in Kentucky for the first time in decades, signaling the tentative return of a crop which once was a lucrative industry for the Bluegrass State.
University of Kentucky researchers on Tuesday planted a small crop of 13 varieties of hemp seeds, finally released last week by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) after pointless bureaucratic wrangling.
Although industrial hemp was an indispensable crop for Kentucky through World War II, it was the first time it had been legally planted in the state since the 1970s, reports Janet Patton at the Herald Leader.
University of Kentucky agronomists RIch Mundell and David Williams will supervise the hemp study. The plants are expected to sprout in 7 to 10 days and will be harvested in October. Each variety will be evaluated for its seed and fiber production.
"It's exciting to be working on something different, and we're very hopeful it will be successful," said Williams. "Generally speaking, compared to some crops, it's not difficult to grow.
"But there are some things that are unknown today," Williams continued. "In particular, differences in the varieties of hemp we have access to today."
While much of the economic interest in hemp decades ago was based on its fiber, now there's more focus on the seeds, which can be press for a nutritious oil which contains essential fatty acids (EFAs) Omega 3 and 6.
Political Battle Builds as DEA Faces Growing Scrutiny for Slew of Scandals: Use of NSA Data to Spy on Virtually All Americans, Massacre of Civilians in Honduras, and Systematic Pattern of Fabricating Evidence
DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart Increasingly At Odds With President Obama, Justice Dept., and Congress
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has weighed in on the political firestorm that has ensued since the DEA recently seized legal hemp seeds bound for a Kentucky hemp research program that was approved by Congress. McConnell told Politico Wednesday night, “It is an outrage that DEA is using finite taxpayer dollars to impound legal industrial hemp seeds.”
The Kentucky Agriculture Department is suing the agency.
Hemp is not legal to grow in the U.S., though hemp products can be produced and sold in the U.S. Some states have made its cultivation legal, but these states -– North Dakota, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Oregon, California, Montana, West Virginia and Vermont -– have not yet begun to grow it because of resistance from the DEA.
A few months ago, Congress legalized the production of hemp for research purposes in states that want to allow it. But when Kentucky recently tried to import hemp seeds to begin production, the DEA seized the seeds. Kentucky officials, including Kentucky Republican Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) were angered.
By Steve Elliott
A shipment of Italian hemp seeds has made it safely to Kentucky, where the law was recently changed to allow the growing of industrial hemp for university research projects, but federal customs officials in Louisville have so far refused to release the 250 pounds of seeds to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.
The confusion is keeping the hemp seeds from getting to research project locations in the state, according to Kentucky officials, reports Kevin Willis at WKY Public Radio.
"I spoke with a Customs official in Chicago, and once I advised her of what the law is, and what we're doing at the Department of Agriculture, Customs in Chicago released the seeds to Louisville, and now it's just a question of getting everyone on the same page," said Holly Harris VonLuehrte, chief of staff at the Kentucky Agriculture Department.
VonLuehrte said she believes Customs officials will release the hemp seeds within "the next 24 hours."
The shipment of seeds from Italy is meant to supply three pilot hemp research projects in the Bluegrass State. VonLuehrte said the Department of Agriculture already has a prior shipment of hemp seeds ready to plant next Friday in Rockcastle County, home to a pilot hemp project being conducted by Kentucky State University.
By Steve Elliott
A bill which would legalize the use of marijuana-derived cannabidiol (CBD) oil to treat seizures associated with severe forms of childhood epilepsy, unanimously passed a key committee in the Kentucky Legislature on Wednesday.
Senate Bill 124, which passed the Kentucky Senate last week, would allow children with severe seizures to be treated with CBD oil, a non-psychoactive marijuana extract, reports Mollie Reilly at The Huffington Post. Under the language of the measure, patients would be treated as part of FDA trials (which of course could introduce long bureaucratic delays into the process) or under the recommendation of state research hospitals.
The measure cleared the Kentucky House Judiciary Committee on a unanimous vote during Wednesday's hearing.
Rita Wooton, who said her four-year-old son Eli suffers from up to 40 seizures a day, was moved to tears by the bill's advancement. "When I started this roller coaster ride two months ago, I never thought this would be feasible for any of us," Wooton said, reports Theo Keiteh at WAVE. "We're just really super excited that this is coming here -- soon."
The bill now goes to the full House, where Democratic Speaker Greg Stumbo said it should have easy sailing.
By Steve Elliott
For the first time in history, the Kentucky Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill which would legalize the medical use of marijuana-derived CBD oil.
The oil, which is useful in controlling seizures, including those among children with uncontrollable epilepsy, is extracted from the cannabis plant. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is not psychoactive, unlike tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is responsible for the "high" from marijuana.
Senate Bill 124, sponsored by Sen. Julie Denton (R-Louisville) would allow the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville medical schools to conduct research and allow anyone enrolled in a U.S. FDA trial to be treated with CBD oil, reports Gregory A. Hall at the Louisville Courier-Journal.
"This is not a partisan issue; it's a people issue," Sen. Denton said, reports Theo Keith at WAVE3 News. "During the session, there's been a lot of education going on."
HB 350, the Cannabis Compassion Act, would allow people with debilitating medical conditions to access and use medical marijuana without fear of arrest
The Kentucky House Health and Welfare Committee on Thursday approved a bill that would allow people suffering from conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis (MS), and HIV/AIDS to use medical marijuana by a vote of 9-5, following a public hearing.
The Cannabis Compassion Act, or HB 350, introduced by Rep. Mary Lou Marzian (D-Louisville) and co-sponsored by Committee Chairman Tom Burch (D-Louisville), would permit licensed patients and caregivers to possess and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana, and it would establish regulations to operate a limited number of medical marijuana compassion centers and testing facilities.
This is the first time an effective medical marijuana bill has passed a committee in the Kentucky Legislature. A similar bill, SB 43, was introduced in the Senate earlier this year by Sen. Perry Clark (D-Louisville).
“Patients suffering from a wide range of medical conditions are grateful to have earned this committee’s support on HB 350,” said Matt Simon, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Chairman Burch and his committee have taken a stand in favor of protecting seriously ill Kentuckians, and they should be applauded for doing so.”