Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke with a group of hemp advocates in Kentucky and announced that he’ll be introducing legislation to legalize hemp production by removing it from the controlled substances list.
Kentucky has been at the center of hemp production and was recently approved to grow another 12,000 acres of hemp by agricultural officials. Hemp is extremely versatile and over 50 processors in Kentucky have been manufacturing a diverse array of products.
Growing hemp is only legal if the cultivator is granted a federal permit due to its close relationship to marijuana that is still classified as a schedule I drug. While hemp is in the same genus as cannabis, the plant only produces trace amounts of THC.
In 2014, the Federal Farm Bill was passed into law allowing states to implement research and development projects into the cultivation of hemp. As of now 30 states have approved such projects and government officials have a broader understanding as to the nature and value of the plant.
On Monday, McConnell noted that, “It’s now time to take the final step and make this a legal crop...I think we’ve worked our way through the education process of making sure everybody understands this is really a different plant.”
Large scale farming and manufacturing of hemp could produce an abundance of new jobs and provide sustainable products for a host of different industries. While many on Capitol Hill are in support of legalizing the cultivation of hemp, it’s doubtful this will move the needle at all when it comes to marijuana legalization on a federal level.
The Senate Majority Leader promised quick action stating, "So I will be introducing, when I go back to the Senate a week from Monday, a bipartisan bill in the Senate to continue to support this important Kentucky industry; it will be the Hemp Farm Act of 2018. What will it do? First and foremost, this bill will finally legalize hemp, legalize hemp as an agricultural commodity and remove it from list of controlled substances."
Before doing so, he mentioned that he’ll be sitting down with Attorney General Jeff Sessions to articulate the differences between hemp and cannabis. The current administration has taken a tough stance on the cultivation and sale of marijuana and marijuana infused products.