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Kentuckians favor hemp, medical marijuana

Feb. 24, 2013 at 5:20 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky., Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Most Kentuckians want to legalize industrial hemp and medical marijuana, while fewer than half favor legalizing recreational marijuana use, a poll showed.

Sixty-five percent of those polled favored legalized industrial hemp and 60 percent would allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes, Louisville's Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll revealed Saturday.

Currently, neither marijuana nor hemp are legal in Kentucky for any purpose.

A bill to regulate industrial hemp has passed the state senate and is scheduled for a hearing this week in a house committee, but a medical marijuana bill has not yet even had a hearing.

"I hope the governor and Kentucky's state House members get the message loud and clear: Kentuckians want jobs and they believe industrial hemp will bring them to Kentucky," said Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, the author of the bill.

Legalizing hemp would result in thousands of jobs growing and processing the crop, provided Kentucky proves to be one of the first in the country to permit it, the bill's supporters say.

If the senate bill passes, Kentucky would become the ninth state to legalize hemp production, Vote Hemp, a national group that advocates hemp legalization.

But Gov. Steve Beshear, the state police and house Democratic leaders are concerned about hemp's economic value and about whether growing hemp would increase the state's drug problem.

"We have a tremendous drug problem in Kentucky, and I want to make sure that we don't do anything that will increase that drug problem," said Beshear.

Another senate bill to allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to relieve the nausea and pain associated with cancer and HIV/AIDS treatments was not heard last year.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Whitney Westerfield, who opposes the measure, said it won't be heard this year, either.

The poll was based on surveys taken between Feb. 19 and Feb. 21 with 616 registered state voters. The margin of error for the poll was plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

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