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Published: January 31, 2013 Updated 4 hours ago

By Janet Patton — jpatton1@herald-leader.com



U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Louisville, has endorsed efforts in Kentucky to legalize industrial hemp.

In a statement release by his Washington office, McConnell said:

"After long discussions with Senator Rand Paul and Commissioner James Comer on the economic benefits of industrialized hemp, I am convinced that allowing its production will be a positive development for Kentucky's farm families and economy."

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer's office said he welcomed the support from McConnell, who is the Senate Minority Leader. It comes three days after Kentucky law enforcement officers released a statement opposing it, calling industrial hemp a step toward legal marijuana.

In his statement, McConnell addressed those concerns:

"Commissioner Comer has assured me that his office is committed to pursuing industrialized hemp production in a way that does not compromise Kentucky law enforcement's marijuana eradication efforts or in any way promote illegal drug use."

After conversations with Comer and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, on the economic potential for industrial hemp, McConnell apparently came down on the side of jobs.

"The utilization of hemp to produce everything from clothing to paper is real, and if there is a capacity to center a new domestic industry in Kentucky that will create jobs in these difficult economic times, that sounds like a good thing to me," he said in the statement.

Comer said in a statement, "When the most powerful Republican in the country calls to discuss your issue, that's a good day on the job. Leader McConnell's support adds immeasurable strength to our efforts to bring good jobs to Kentucky."