A local hemp processor is advocating for a bill that would remove the criminal charges for possession of hemp flower or leaf material as well as allow farmers to sell hemp floral material direct to market.

Filed Feb. 27 by sponsors Rep. Mark Hart and Rep. Savannah Maddox, House Bill 506 seeks to exempt combustible hemp products from the definition of marijuana; allow a licensee to process, handle or market combustible hemp products, and exempt any person in possession, custody, or control of combustible hemp products from the penalties of Kentucky marijuana law.

Katie Moyer Arzamastseva, owner of Kentucky Hemp Works in Crofton, said House Bill 506 would give farmers more outlets to sell their hemp and for more money.

“The No. 1 reason would be the vast difference between what a farmer is going to be able to sell his crop to a processor for and what he could sell his crop to somebody for the smokable market,” Moyer said. “We’re looking at probably 10 times as much financial value per pound of hemp.”

Moyer said most Kentucky farmers are currently selling their hemp for $20 to $30 a pound to processors but could be selling it for up to $300 per pound in the smokable or floral hemp market, depending on the quality of the crop.

Smokable hemp, however, is illegal in Kentucky. That includes hemp cigarettes, cigars, chew or dip.

The 2018 national Farm Bill removed hemp from the federal list of controlled substances; however, Kentucky law prohibits anyone without a growers, processors or handlers license from possessing whole hemp plants, flowers or buds.

“There’s so much more that we can do with the floral material that doesn’t involve smoking it at all,” Moyer said. “That’s really where Kentucky Hemp Works has an interest in it. We’re very interested in making teas, potentially growing micro-greens, some construction projects we can do with the floral material after it’s been extracted and the possibilities of using it in animal feed.”

Kentucky Hemp Works, which opened in 2016, currently processes and sells its own Kentucky Proud line of health and wellness hemp products, such as lip balm, protein powder, lotion and even fish attractant for fishermen.

“It’s not about just smoking hemp,” she continued. “We’re not really trying to push smoking on anyone, but we are trying to free up a vast variety of markets and get our farmers paid.”

When hemp processors like GenCanna file for bankruptcy, farmers are left wondering where to sell their crop before it goes bad, she noted.

“The reason they can’t sell it in the current market is because they’re limited to only being allowed to sell it to processors,” she said. “Farmers are scrambling at the last minute to find a buyer because their processor bailed out on them. The reason that’s been worse this year is because we have so much hemp on the market and it’s too much for the good processors to pick it all up.”

House Bill 506 is currently pending with the House Agriculture Committee.

Moyer said a barrier to getting the bill passed could be law enforcement.

“We don’t expect state police to love this idea and that’s completely understandable,” she said. “We definitely have support in the legislature because we’ve been talking about this for years now and it’s getting traction.”

Moyer said if the bill makes it through committee and ultimately gets passed, Kentucky Hemp Works has health food product ideas ready.

“We’re always looking at improving people’s health through diet, and if the bill passed, we could immediately start production where people would be getting raw hemp flower in their diet,” she said. “There are researchers that are using hemp microgreens to fight kidney cancer right now, and you can just eat them in your salad every day.”

From here, Moyer said she plans to continuing educating lawmakers, law enforcement and the community about hemp and its benefits in all forms.

“We’re going to try with the sheriff’s association to discuss the bill,” she said. “The sheriff’s association president said he’s waiting for someone to explain to him why (the bill) is needed, and I said well I might as well give it a try.”

Reach Zirconia Alleyne at 270-887-3243 or zalleyne@kentuckynewera.com.

Reach Zirconia Alleyne at 270-887-3243 or zalleyne@kentuckynewera.com.

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