Kentucky eager to plant hemp, first time in decades

In this Oct. 5, 2013 file photo, a volunteer helps harvest hemp during the first known harvest of the plant in more than 60 years, in Springfield, Colo. The federal farm bill agreement reached Monday Jan. 27, 2014 reverses decades of prohibition for hemp cultivation.
P. Solomon Banda, AP

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says industrial hemp will make a comeback in Kentucky after decades of being banned if Congress finishes work on a farm bill that includes hemp language. 

With the federal go-ahead, Comer said Wednesday the state Agriculture Department will issue an undetermined number of licenses to farmers wanting to grow the crop that once thrived in the Bluegrass state. Comer says the crop will likely be small this year. 

Hemp was banned decades ago when the government classified it as a controlled substance related to marijuana. Hemp contains a negligible amount of the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high. 

A federal farm bill agreement reached this week allows pilot growing programs to be set up. Kentucky lawmakers passed a bill last year to allow industrial hemp's reintroduction if the federal government lifts its ban.