FRANKFORT, Ky. – Hemp advocates have a strong power ally in the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell. The Kentucky Republican said he will introduce laws to legalize hemp as an agricultural commodity by removing the plant valued for its oils, seeds and fibers from the list of controlled substances.
A look at the tortured past of hemp and its prospects for the future:
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HEMP AND MARIJUANA?
Hemp and marijuana come from the same plant species, but hemp has a negligible amount of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives high value to marijuana consumers.
THEN WHY IS HEMP ILLEGAL?
For decades the family has combined the production of hemp. The cultivation of hemp without federal approval was banned because of its classification as a controlled substance in relation to marijuana.
The harvest received a limited pardon when Congress passed the 2014 Farm Bill. A McConnell-driven provision allowed state agricultural departments to design hemp research and development projects.
HOW HOW IS HAND USED?
Proponents speak of the versatility of a plant that is valued for its oils, seeds, and fibers. Hemp has been used for the rope in the past, but has hundreds of other uses, including fiber clothing and mulch, hemp milk and edible oil from the seeds, as well as soaps and lotions. Other uses include building materials, animal bedding and biofuels.
WHAT WOULD McCONNELL'S PROPOSAL DO?
McConnell wants a full pardon for hemp by removing him from the list of controlled substances. That would make hemp a legal agricultural commodity, he says, and "allow this industry to thrive here in Kentucky."
ARE MORE FARMERS GROWING HEMP?
Since the 2014 Farm Bill allowed experimental hemp production, plant production has expanded, but remains tiny.
So far, 34 states have approved hemp research according to the advocacy group Vote Hanf. The actual production took place last year in 19 states. Hemp production in 2017 was 25,541 acres (10,336 hectares), more than twice the production in 2016, said Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp.
In McConnell's home state of Kentucky, agricultural officials recently approved more than 4,000 hectares (12,000 acres). grown this year, and 57 Kentucky processors help convert the raw product to other uses.
HOW WOULD MCCONNELL'S BILL WORK?
McConnell said his bill wants to build on pilot program successes and has two-party support for the Senate.
The US Department of Agriculture would have to approve the states' implementation plans, but as soon as that happened, the states would be the main hemp regulators. The bill would also allow hunters to apply for competitive federal grants from USDA.
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