President Obama handed Kentucky Agricultural Commissioner James Comer, an open invention to run for governor. Over the weekend of the Dr. Martin L. King Jr. holiday, Obama stated in an interview in the New Yorker Magazine that “smoking marijuana was like drinking alcohol. It was a bad habit and not good for you.”
Comer and Senator Rand Paul made the statement that if the 2013 Kentucky General Assembly would pass a bill legalizing hemp, they would ask the President for a Presidential waiver to grow hemp in 2014.
Overnight, Comer’s star has just gotten brighter thanks to the softball position Obama has taken on the marijuana issue. The two crops get confused.
The industrial hemp supported by Comer and Paul has uses as food, fuel and fiber. Supporters point to hemp as a viable alternative crop that can be converted to just about any product made from oil. Canada is the closest hemp producer to the US. Hemp is being touted as a crop that can be used in areas unsuited to the row crops of corn, soybeans and wheat.
Acceptance is growing. The American Farm Bureau endorsed hemp production this week. The remaining barriers are law enforcement officials that equate hemp with marijuana. Comer has been working to ease fears that hemp production will lead to widespread marijuana use.
On its own, marijuana is making a comeback. The supercharged cousin of hemp, marijuana is a drug that has recognized properties for fighting nausea in cancer patients. Most recently children affected with seizure disorder are being treated with marijuana.
Marijuana, illegal under federal law and that of the vast majority of states, is the subject of carved out exceptions for those using it as a medicine. The step to use by the rest of the population is getting smaller all the time. There’s a more tolerant attitude among the general population for a drug that many boomers used in their youth. Most recently the state of Colorado legalized the selling of marijuana to adults for purposes other than medical treatment.
Comer is not endorsing marijuana, a fact he has been careful to stress in discussions with Attorney General Jack Conway and law enforcement officials.
Hemp endorsement is one of several strategies being used by Comer to take him to the governor’s office in 2015.
(1) Using hemp as the new cash crop to save Kentucky’s small towns and rural farmers, Comer could lock down most of West Kentucky for backing him for governor.
(2) Last week, Comer went to Hancock County in far Western Kentucky. His visit marked the fulfillment of a campaign promise to visit every county in Kentucky to hear what the people had on their minds. With this visit to Hancock County, Comer marked an important goal of visiting all 120 counties in a year for the second consecutive year.
(3) If the Kentucky House of Representatives is flipped in 2014 from Democratic to Republican control, Comer will work hard to secure the right chairmanship to key committees that would become important strategic allies in his campaign to modernize Kentucky agriculture.
(4) Political observers speculate that Comer is designing a 21st Century governor’s race around the image of a reformer to make Kentucky ready for this new century. This will be done with the formation of a network of 120 county local committees to reform each county for partnership in rural and urban development.
Comer is pushing himself as the “new voice and face of a modern Kentucky Republican Party. He will run on his record as a “doer” - someone who gets the job done. He has already taken steps to stand up to the Republican Old Guard. He is shaping a new kinder and gentler Republican base in Kentucky.
Comer is moving full speed toward a win-win position for January of 2015.
If the Republican Old Guard fight him, independents and moderate Republicans will move toward him. If the old Guard Democrats try to stop him, he will leverage all of the mistakes made by them to show how he is the right reform candidate to lead Kentucky forward.
The only way Comer can be stopped is if a young Democratic candidate emerges in 2014 to give him a real battle for the moderates and independents in Kentucky politics.
***Press Release January 28, 2014***
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Agriculture Commissioner James Comer today applauded news that the proposed federal farm bill contains language that would take a giant step toward restoring industrial hemp production to Kentucky and the nation.
“For months, we have tried to get some assurance at the federal level that Kentucky producers can grow industrial hemp without fear of government harassment or prosecution. This is what we’ve been waiting for,” Commissioner Comer said. “I appreciate Sen. Mitch McConnell’s efforts to get hemp language in the farm bill. Without his protection of the language, there is no way it would have survived the process. I’m also grateful to Sen. Rand Paul and Reps. John Yarmuth and Thomas Massie for supporting our efforts from the beginning. And I again want to thank state Sen. Paul Hornback for having the courage to sponsor Senate Bill 50, which makes industrial hemp production legal under Kentucky law.”
The farm bill contains language that would allow state departments of agriculture and institutions of higher learning to conduct pilot hemp projects for research purposes in states such as Kentucky where hemp production is legal according to state law. The research must relate to growth, cultivation, and/or marketing of hemp. Sen. McConnell’s top deputies quietly communicated with Kentucky Department of Agriculture senior staff for weeks on the progress with the hemp language.
Today, Commissioner Comer is working the phones talking with producers, processors, and members of the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission. The commission’s chairman, Brian Furnish, was very gratified to hear this latest news.
“We still have work to do, and this isn’t the end of the road, but it’s unbelievable progress, and I could not be happier with this development,” Furnish said. “I appreciate Sen. McConnell holding firm for Kentucky, and I believe the day is coming when we will see this crop completely restored to the Commonwealth.”
The U.S. House of Representatives could take up the farm bill as early as Wednesday.
Commissioner Comer revived the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission in 2012 and has advocated for the restoration of industrial hemp production in Kentucky throughout his term as agriculture commissioner. He led a bipartisan effort to make hemp production legal under state law, and the Kentucky General Assembly passed SB 50 in the final hour of the 2013 legislative session.