“It sure is good to come to a great university and speak to a bunch of good Baptists-I see you all up there sitting in the back row,” joked state Senator Joey Pendleton (D-Hopkinsville) at the opening of his speech on the night of Nov. 17 in Wallace.
Right off the bat, Senator Pendleton made his audience feel at home with a bit of a jest and a smile. Though his demeanor was lighthearted, the subject he came to speak about was an issue that has been seriously debated in recent months.
Pendleton, who was invited to speak on campus by Eastern’s student NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) chapter, spoke on the agricultural, environmental and economic benefits that the legalization of industrial hemp could bring to Kentucky.
“It [industrial hemp] is much more environmentally friendly, easier and cheaper to grow than a lot of other crops, and can be mixed with coal to create a cleaner burning product for fuel,” Pendleton said.
The senator said hemp could be economically beneficial as well. He said that according to projections by state officials, legalizing the hemp industry could generate a $4-5 million profit for Kentucky, while simultaneously creating thousands of jobs for Kentucky citizens.
Taking advantage of hemp’s fuel opportunities could also make the United States much less dependent on foreign oils, Pendleton said
Sophomore American Sign Language major Devan Owens echoed the Senator’s idea. “Hemp is probably one of the most multi-purposeful materials available; and with little to no THC, I just don’t understand [why it’s illegal],” he said.
Many students came to Wallace 147 to hear the Kentucky senator speak, some NORML members and some not.
“It’s time to educate people,” said NORML president Ashley Sharpe. “It’s time for change, and I am ready to be a part of it.”
Senator Pendleton’s advice to anyone seeking to have their opinion represented in Kentucky legislation should contact their local representatives and senators-preferably by personal e-mail-because it has a more “personal touch.”
“Educate people as to what we’re doing here,” Pendleton said. “People need to know and understand that what we’re dealing with isn’t smoking marijuana, but a completely different animal altogether.”
He also said writing letters, collecting signatures, voting when election time rolls around and organizing campaigns are also great ways for advocates to have their voices heard in Kentucky’s legislative world.
“The wheel that squeaks the loudest will be the one that gets greased,” Pendleton said near the close of his speech, metaphorically summing up the advice he had been giving to students wishing to get involved in the cause to legalize industrial hemp.