Senator McConnell to introduce legislation to legalize hemp production in the U.S.
Published: April 4, 2018
Category: Sustainability, The Organic & Non-GMO Report Newsletter
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) recently announced that he would introduce legislation in the United States Senate to support the burgeoning hemp industry. The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 will legalize hemp as an agricultural commodity and remove it from the list of controlled substances where it is now listed with its closely related plant—marijuana.
Senator McConnell took the first step to support hemp in 2014 by using his leadership position in the Senate to spearhead a provision to legalize hemp pilot programs in the Farm Bill. Since then, the research has shown the potential of hemp as an agricultural commodity. The provision allows state agriculture departments to designate hemp for research and development. To date, 34 states have authorized hemp research. Nineteen states grew hemp on 23,343 acres in 2017, more than double the number of acres from the previous year. State licenses to cultivate hemp were issued to 1,424 farmers; and 32 universities conducted research on the crop.
“It’s now time to take the final step and make this a legal crop,” McConnell said.
Hemp is a versatile crop that is used for food, feed, personal care, and industrial uses. These include rope, clothing, and mulch from the fiber hemp milk and cooking oil from the seeds, and soap and lotions. Other uses include building materials, animal bedding, and biofuels.
But commercial production of hemp hasn’t been done in the U.S. since 1958 due to its classification as a controlled substance related to marijuana. Hemp and marijuana are the same species, but hemp has a negligible amount of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high.
McConnell’s legislation, which is also backed by Kentucky’s other U.S. senator Rand Paul, would allow commercial production nationwide.
Eric Steenstra, president of the national advocacy group Vote Hemp, praised the proposed legislation.
“This is a huge development for the hemp industry,” Steenstra said. “Sen. McConnell’s support is critical to helping us move hemp from research and pilot programs to full commercial production.”
Sources: Washington Post, Bloomberg News
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