Saturday, March 24, 2012

How powerful is the industrial hemp issue?

There is no question that cultivation of industrial hemp has pockets of strong support in Kentucky, but the Republican primary for Kentucky's 17th state Senate district could show just how potent it has become.

Rick Hostetler, challenging Republican Senator Damon Thayer launched a new page on his web site chastising Thayer for a 2011 KET broadcast in which Thayer seemed to suggest that allowing farmers to grow hemp might lead to people taking hard drugs. See the page by clicking here.

Industrial hemp entered Kentucky Republican politics in the fall of 2010 when then-gubernatorial candidate Phil Moffett announced his support for hemp cultivation. He came in second in a three-way race in which both his opponents made anti-hemp statements similar to Thayer's.

Agriculture Commissioner Jamie Comer followed Moffett's pro-hemp statements in his successful 2011 campaign. Before long, nearly all of his opponents followed suit, including his Democratic general election opponent who publicly flip-flopped to a pro-hemp position.

By all indications, Senator Thayer has a very significant fundraising advantage over Hostetler. Industrial hemp advocates may or may not want to latch onto this race to gauge support for this free market issue, but it would be great to see it become a part of the discussion in 2012 and this looks like our only chance.