Sen. Rand Paul Stands Behind SB 50 (But Does This Mean Anything for 2016?)

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Kentucky’s Legislature on Tuesday approved a bill that would allow the Bluegrass State to license hemp growers should the U.S. government ever lift the ban on the crop.

And Republican Senator Rand Paul has pledged his full support for the measure.

“I commend the Kentucky General Assembly for final passage of Senate Bill 50,” Sen. Paul said in a statement posted to his website on Wednesday.

“Senate Bill 50 is an important step forward in the reintroduction of industrial hemp in Kentucky. I have pledged, along with Rep. John Yarmuth, to seek a waiver when a regulatory framework is in place.

“I will follow through on that pledge and I hope that Kentucky will soon start growing hemp, creating jobs and leading the nation in this industry again,” he adds.

As noted in the senator’s statement, Kentucky legislators are hopeful SB 50 will position the state to profit handsomely should the feds ever lift the ban on hemp.

“Hemp thrived as a crop in Kentucky generations ago but has been banned for decades. Agriculture Commissioner James Comer believes hemp could be an important crop for Kentucky farmers again,” the Associated Press reports.

But here’s a question: Does Paul’s support for things like SB 50 reflect an admirable consistency in message or does it reveal a sort of single-mindedness that makes him an undesirable candidate for higher office?

Republican commentator Ann Coulter believes that along with his stance on immigration reform, the Kentucky senator’s supposed focus on relaxing the laws on controlled substances puts him in the second category.

“His two objectives after the election were legalizing pot and amnesty for illegals,” she said during a recent interview on FOX News’ “Hannity.”

“No, he’s not our candidate,” she added, noting that she is “warming” to the idea of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie running in 2016:

Now it’s important to note that legalizing industrial hemp is not the same thing as legalizing pot. They’re different varieties of the same species of plant. Whereas pot is used for medicinal and recreational purposes, hemp can be grown for its seeds, oil, and fiber.

Still, despite the fact that it only contains about about 0.3 – 1.5 percent THC (the ingredient that’ll get you high), Sen. Paul’s support for industrial hemp is an “issue that is traditionally associated with the most far-out folks on the extreme left,” as libertarian Nick Gillespie notes.

Which brings us back to the question posed earlier: Does Paul’s support for things like SB 50 help or hurt him? Does it make him an unserious candidate?

Many believe that Sen. Paul’s stance on the war on drugs and immigration reform puts him in a better position to court the youth and libertarian vote — two voting blocs that cannot be ignored.

Indeed, should Paul and Christie ever face-off in a primary, it’s precisely because the junior senator has gained a reputation as a politician who’s willing to”[scramble] politics as usual” (i.e. the very things Coulter rolls her eyes at), he may very well have the edge over Christie (as far as those two demographics are concerned).

But, of course, that remains to be seen.

Here’s the latest text to Kentucky Senate Bill 50 (if you’re interested in looking it over):

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Featured image Getty Images. This post has been updated for clarity.

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