Tag Archives: Rep. James Comer

Congressional Republicans Block Votes On Hemp Amendments

Published 2 days ago on May 16, 2018 By Tom Angell

In the latest development in a series of anti-cannabis moves, congressional Republican leadership has blocked consideration of several industrial hemp amendments.

Supporters were seeking to attach the measures to the large-scale Farm Bill, which sets food and agriculture policy for the country, but the House Rules Committee on Wednesday decided that the proposals cannot be considered on the floor.

The anti-cannabis chairman of the panel did, however, reveal that a broader deal for industrial hemp might be in the works.

One of the measures the committee killed, submitted by Reps. James Comer (R-KY) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), along with a bipartisan list of cosponsors, would have legalized hemp and made it eligible for crop insurance.

“Hemp is a crop with a long and rich history in our country,” Comer said in introducing his amendment before the committee. “It was grown by many of our founding fathers.”

Comer, who is a former Kentucky agriculture commissioner, said his state’s existing industrial hemp research program, which is authorized under a previous Farm Bill enacted in 2014, “has been a great success.”

He also spoke about the economic potential of the plant. “Times are tough in rural america,” he said. “For rural Kentuckians, industrial hemp has provided a new crop and business opportunity.”

But in a party-line move, the committee voted 8 to 3 to reject a motion to add Comer’s amendment to the list of proposals approved for floor consideration.

Another hemp amendment, filed by Reps. Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Jared Polis (D-CO), would have removed hemp from the list of federally banned substances.

A third proposal, submitted by Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY), sought to create “a safe harbor for financial institutions that provide services to hemp legitimate businesses” that operate under state-authorized research programs.

“There is a proud history in American and in Kentucky [for hemp] as an agriculture product,” Barr said when testifying for his amendment, noting that it can be used in over 25,000 products.

Under current law, banks that work with legitimate hemp companies “fear reprisal from federal regulators,” Barr said, arguing that his proposed measure would protect financial institutions “from unnecessary interference from bank examiners and regulators” and give producers rights that “every other American crop enjoys.”

The committee did not hold specific votes on those two measures.

Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) has made a consistent practice of blocking cannabis measures from advancing over the past several years.

Sessions, seemingly mistakenly, told Comer during the Wednesday hearing that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has “a clause…that industrial hemp should be declassified under their Schedule I drugs, which they concur, which is the position you hold, too.”

A hemp lobbyist told Marijuana Moment in an email that he had not heard of the DEA taking a pro-hemp position.

Polis, who as a Rules Committee member made the unsuccessful motion to let the full House vote on Comer’s amendment, argued that hemp is a “common sense area” that enjoys bipartisan support. The measure, he said, would simply “treat industrial hemp as the agricultural commodity that it is.”

While Sessions and other GOP panel members were not swayed, the chairman did hint just before the vote that there may still be hope for hemp reform, saying that the issue would be “determined by an agreement that would be reached” with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

McConnell last month filed a hemp legalization bill, which Comer’s amendment closely modeled. Fully a fifth of the Senate is now signed on as cosponsoring that legislation, and the majority leader has already announced plans to attach his hemp language to the version of the Farm Bill being considered by the Senate this month.

While it is unclear what exactly Sessions was suggesting when he referred to an “agreement” with McConnell, it may have been a reference to the conference committee process that will merge the House and Senate’s respective versions of the Farm Bill into a single proposal after each chamber passes its legislation. If McConnell succeeds in attaching hemp legalization to the Senate bill, it would then be up for consideration as part of the final legislation sent to President Trump for signing into law.

In 2014, McConnell successfully inserted a provision to prevent federal interference in hemp research programs in that year’s version of the Farm Bill.

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  RulesReps  Streamed live on May 16, 2018                            Rules Committee Hearing for May 16, 2018.

“THE HEMP FARMING ACT OF 2018”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 26, 2018
Contact: Jonathan Miller
(859) 619-6328, jmiller@fbtlaw.com
Brian Furnish: (859) 298-0465

HEMP INDUSTRY LAUDS SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL FOR PENDING INTRODUCTION OF “THE HEMP FARMING ACT OF 2018”


FRANKFORT – The U.S. Hemp Roundtable, the industry association that joins the nation’s leading hemp companies and all of its major grassroots organizations, today lauded U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell upon his announcement of the pending introduction of “The Hemp Farming Act of 2018.”  Leader McConnell’s bill, which is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY), would permanently remove hemp from regulation as a controlled substance and treat it as an agricultural commodity.  Similar legislation, H.R. 3530, the “Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2017,” was introduced last year by Rep. James Comer (R-KY), and has been co-sponsored by 43 of his colleagues, from both sides of the aisle.
“The hemp industry is very grateful to Leader McConnell for his strong leadership over the years on behalf of providing Kentucky farmers – and the whole U.S. agricultural commodity – this exciting new economic opportunity,” stated Roundtable President Brian Furnish, an 8th generation tobacco farmer from Cynthiana, who credits the Leader with empowering his transition from tobacco to hemp.  “Leader McConnell’s persistence and commitment has gotten us to this point – through his work on the 2014 Farm Bill and subsequent legislation that created today’s hemp pilot programs.  There’s no better person to help get us across the finish line.”
“While this has been, and will continue to be, a broadly bipartisan effort in Congress, when the history of hemp legalization is written, the two most important figures will be Mitch McConnell and James Comer,” stated Roundtable General Counsel Jonathan Miller, who previously served as Kentucky’s State Treasurer and Chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party. “Everyone who is working so hard to build this nascent industry understands that we owe deep appreciation to Senator McConnell for his strong commitment and steady leadership on this issue.”

Kentucky Congressman Champions Deregulation of Industrial Hemp

1/7/2018 |

Chris Clayton

A freshman Kentucky congressmen, and member of the House Agriculture Committee, attended the American Farm Bureau Federation convention on Sunday to promote his new legislation to deregulate industrial hemp nationally.

Rep. James Comer, a Republican representing Kentucky’s 1st Congressional District, was the state’s agricultural commissioner from 2012 to 2016 before being elected to Congress. During his time as ag commissioner, the state passed a bill to set up a regulatory framework to make industrial hemp a reality.

“That was six years ago. Today, Kentucky is the leading industrial-hemp producing state in the nation and 20 other states have passed similar legislation.”

Comer’s bill would reclassify industrial hemp from a controlled substance to an agricultural crop. The bill would make it clear it is not a drug and Comer said he does not support legalization of marijuana.

“I’m trying to differentiate between marijuana and hemp,” he said.

Hemp generally has less than .3% of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical compound that creates the high in marijuana, which generally has 15% or more THC. That difference is “It is a crop that has a lot of potential, not just for farmers, but for manufacturing,” Comer said.

Hemp can still produce Cannabidiol (CBD) oil that Comer said can be a solution in managing pain, and possibly help address the country’s opioid crisis. CBD oil can treat pain in a non-addictive manner, he said.

“I think hemp has a very bright future, but we have to get the federal government off the backs of producers and give the private sector confidence that this is an agricultural crop and something worth investing in, not something they have to worry about some overzealous DEA agent or Department of Justice coming in and seizing their assets because they do not know the difference between hemp and marijuana.”

Beyond CBD oil, Comer said there is a Louisville company making fiber, as well as a fiber foam that is going into at least some automobile production. Comer said other auto manufacturers want to research further uses for auto interiors as well. There are also companies using hemp to produce animal feed and bedding, he said.

“We’re trying to utilize every part of the plant and I feel Kentucky has proven there is huge demand for hemp products,” Comer said.

Comer said his bill has House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., as a co-sponsor. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also is going to introduce a companion bill in the Senate. McConnell had language in the last farm bill to help commercialize the crop in the state.

Comer said he will likely look to move his legislation through the Energy and Commerce Committee, as well as Judiciary, but he said it is possible the bill might be included in the upcoming farm bill. Comer added, however, that at least some members of the House Agriculture Committee are leery of dealing with a hemp-legalization bill.

“The Ag Committee really is not as crazy about this as some of the other committees,” Comer said. “They hear hemp and they get scared.”

Comer’s bill comes, however, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions seeks to potentially reinstate more prosecutorial authority over marijuana even as more states are legalizing the drug. That could blur the lines in the debate about hemp as well.

The American Farm Bureau Federation also has endorsed the bill and the growth of industrial hemp as an agricultural industry.

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

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