FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The House Speaker on Monday declared Kentucky's industrial hemp bill dead, although proponents of the measure insist it's not too late to revive it in the waning days of the session.
The proposal would let Kentucky quickly license hemp growers if the federal government lifts its ban on the plant. Hemp thrived as a crop in Kentucky generations ago, but has been banned for decades by the federal government after it was classified as a controlled substance related to marijuana.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonburg, told reporters time ran out on the bill. He said it's stuck in a committee and too late for a vote based on General Assembly rules. Three days remain in this year's legislative session.
House Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, said Stumbo's claim is untrue. He countered on the House floor that Stumbo could simply suspend the rules and put the bill to a vote.
Stumbo's opposition to the bill isn't new. He's previously doubted its passage, saying it has a lot of "problems." For instance, Stumbo said, the proposal's fee on hemp growers amounts to a revenue-generating measure — and such legislation must originate in the House.
The proposal has already cleared the Senate and a House committee. And it is supported by high-profile politicians such as U.S. Senator Rand Paul.
Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who supports the measure, has said the crop could be an economic boon for Kentucky. Besides creating another crop for the state's farmers, Comer said hemp could lead to manufacturing jobs that produce products ranging from paper to cosmetics.
But the bill has been unpopular with law enforcement officials. They say hemp could be used to camouflage marijuana, which has similar leaves but far less potency. Hemp has a negligible content of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high.
Comer, the agriculture commissioner, blasted Stumbo on Monday in a news release.
"Speaker Stumbo is a tone-deaf, one-man band trying to kill the only jobs bill this session," Comer said. "This bill has come to symbolize everything wrong with Frankfort, and I hope Stumbo's fellow Democrats recognize the backlash that will result if they follow their leader on this one."
The legislation is Senate Bill 50.