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2000 | Kentucky hemp bill HB 855 passes in House; dies in Senate

Updated: Jan 19, 2019

On February 25, 2000, HB 855 was also introduced in the House, and on March 15 the House voted 63-31 in favor of the bill, and passed to the Senate. It would be the the return of industrial hemp to Kentucky, but only as a strictly regulated experiment at a public university. As amended, the bill would require the Kentucky Agriculture Department and one of the state’s research universities to grow industrial hemp for study, and to explore the economic benefits of hemp production. Unfortunately, the legislative session ended with no action.

AN ACT relating to industrial hemp.

Create new sections of KRS Chapter 260 to allow the commercial production of industrial hemp as an agricultural product in Kentucky; direct the Department of Agriculture to oversee the licensure and enforcement of industrial hemp growers and production; control the supply of hemp seed and encourage the development of a hemp seed industry in Kentucky; create an industrial hemp research and marketing program to be administered by the Department of Agriculture working cooperatively with a Kentucky land grant university's agricultural research program; use the Council on Postsecondary Education to select the site of the program; establish an "industrial hemp program fund" to offset the costs of this marketing and research; implement a licensure fee for industrial hemp growers.

Originally, House Majority Whip Joe Barrows wanted the General Assembly to allow farmers to grow hemp statewide as a partial replacement for tobacco. The stalks, seeds and oil of hemp grown in other countries are used in a variety of products.

However, Barrows compromised on House Bill 855 by agreeing to limit industrial hemp growth to university research. The Council on Postsecondary Education would choose one university from those that apply. Too many lawmakers feared that allowing industrial hemp on farms also would encourage covert cultivation of marijuana, said Barrows, D-Versailles.

See link below for amendments.

“The evidence is out there that suggests that (industrial hemp) is a viable agricultural alternative crop and that we ought to pursue that in Kentucky,” said Barrows. However, he added, “Many issues that come to this legislature require a process of education and building confidence before members are willing to take a great big leap.”Industrial hemp and marijuana are subspecies of the Cannabis plant.

At the time, Federal law did not prohibit industrial hemp production, although states that wanted to grow hemp had to get permits and follow strict rules set by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Four former governors Louie Nunn, Edward “Ned” Breathitt, Julian Carroll and Brereton Jones endorsed the original version of HB 855, that would have allowed hemp farming statewide. Some hemp advocates, watching the vote from the House gallery, claimed the slower approach satisfied them.

“This may be our best way through the door,” said Donald Coulter, president of Hemp Fed Beef in Willisburg, wearing a hemp button-down shirt with a hemp necktie for the occasion.“We need time to educate the public and our local, state and federal law enforcement,” Coulter said. “Canada did five or six years of study before they started their first production crop a few years ago. Since then, they haven’t looked back.”

Some of hemp’s supporters in the House preferred the original bill but voted for the amended version. "If Kentucky falls behind other states that now have permission to grow hemp Hawaii, North Dakota and Minnesota it could lose a foothold in the hemp products market," warned Rep. Steve Nunn, R-Glasgow.“I’m disappointed that we are postponing a decision that could help farmers in our state, for two years or more, largely out of fear and misunderstanding,” Nunn said. “I think it’s an opportunity lost forever.”


Feb 25-introduced in House Feb 28-to Agriculture and Small Business (H) Feb 29-posted in committee Mar 9-reported favorably, 1st reading, to Calendar with Committee Substitute Mar 10-2nd reading, to Rules Mar 13-posted for passage in the Regular Orders of the Day for Tuesday, March 14, 2000; floor amendment (1) filed to Committee Substitute Mar 14-floor amendments (2) (3) and (4) filed to Committee Substitute Mar 15-3rd reading, passed 63-31 with Committee Substitute, floor amendment (3) Mar 16-received in Senate Mar 21-to Agriculture and Natural Resources (S) Mar 23-reported without opinion Mar 24-1st reading, to Calendar Mar 27-2nd reading, to Rule



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