The Kentucky Senate voted Tuesday to make modifications to the state’s growing industrial hemp research program.
State Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said the aim is to better align Kentucky’s hemp effort with federal research exemptions. Quarles said that could put Kentucky growers in a solid position if the federal government approves broader hemp production.
“If congress were to change say the definition of industrial hemp, it would allow the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to change our program instead of waiting for the general assembly to come back into session to change it by statute,” said Quarles.
Kentucky State Police Major Jeremy Slinker said the bill reinforces cooperation between law enforcement and the agriculture department. The special enforcement officer said police have investigated illicit marijuana growers alleging what they grew was hemp. They've also investigated others steeling hemp and selling it as high grade marijuana.
Quarles said Kentucky features the largest hemp research program in the U.S. He said as many as 12,000 acres could be planted this year, compared to approval for 4,000 acres last year.