Tribune-Courier General Manager
Marshall County Sheriff Kevin Byars and other sheriffs from the Purchase area met Friday to discuss ramifications of the legalization of hemp for industrial purposes in Kentucky.
Byars said the meeting was informational in nature. Larry Cox of the state agriculture department was available to answer questions.
Byars said at this point he doesn’t have all the information he needs to make a determination as to the ramifications for law enforcement.
He said he does have a number of concerns, however and he’s working to get answers.
Primarily, Byars said he is concerned about the ability of law enforcement officers to discern between hemp and marijuana in the growing phase.
He said his understanding is that in the early stages of growth the two plants look very similar and that it is only after the plants mature that you can begin to tell them apart.
Byars is also concerned about the possibility of someone attempting to intermingle the plants with marijuana to create a version with higher levels of THC, the mind-altering component to marijuana.
“I just have to wonder if the problems created will be more costly than the benefit” to farmers, said Byars. “That’s one thing I am trying to get the answer to.
“I understand the economic concerns of the state. I just want to make sure this is going to be cost effective.”
The state agriculture department would be responsible for sending out a team of employees to test the THC content of hemp that is grown if the proposals ever come to pass.
Byars said he is concerned the number of growers could quickly become a burden to the department and he wonders what provisions are in place to hire more staff if that happens.
The first vote on Senate Bill 50, a bipartisan effort to legalize the production of industrial hemp, took place in Frankfort yesterday. The Kentucky Senate Agriculture Committee unanimously passed the bill. Before Kentucky farmers could begin growing hemp, however, a federal ban would have to be lifted. Both Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul say they would support lifting the ban.
Recently the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce has added its support for the legislation as well.
Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rodney Brewer has said that agency will not support the growing of hemp in the state because it is difficult to distinguish between the two plants.