Mitch McConnell Wants Congress to Legalize Hemp

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced on Monday that he intends to introduce legislation to

legalize hemp as an “agricultural commodity.”

Hemp is cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC, and four years ago it was completely illegal.

The Hemp Farming Act of 2018, cosponsored by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Rep.

Jamie Comer (R-KY), would remove federal barriers to the planting and production of hemp,

open the way for researchers to apply for grants from the US Department of Agriculture, and allow for state regulation of the plant.

“What will it do?” McConnell said on Monday. “First and foremost, this bill will finally legalize hemp,

legalize hemp as an agricultural commodity and remove it from list of controlled substances.”

If such a bill were to pass, it could have profound meaning for manufacturers of cannabidiol (CBD), the medically

beneficial cannabinoid that can be extracted from all forms of the cannabis plant, including hemp.

Hemp is legally defined as cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC, the intoxicating cannabinoid in marijuana.

There are no limits on the amount of CBD that may be contained in hemp.

Hemp seeds: It’s low-THC cannabis. (Univ. of Louisville photo)

Until recently, hemp had been banned entirely under the

Controlled Substances Act, which categorizes all forms of

cannabis as a Schedule I substance.

In 2014, however, Congress passed the Agricultural Act

(aka the federal farm bill) that legally defined hemp as

cannabis containing “0.3 percent THC or less,”

and allowing certain states to create pilot programs to grow small amounts of the plant. One of those states was

Kentucky, McConnell’s home state.

That pilot project calmed many fears and cleared up confusion about the difference between hemp and higher-T

HC cannabis, McConnell added:

“In 2014, in getting the pilot project option in the farm bill, there was a lot of discussion about what is this. Is this

the same as its distant cousin?

I think we’ve moved past that. I think most members of the Senate now understand it’s two very different plans.

There may be some continued discussion of that. But I think most everybody … now understands this is a totally

different plant.”

(It’s not a totally different plant, actually. It’s still cannabis, but cannabis with extremely low levels of THC.)

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Through the pilot program run by Kentucky’s Department of Agriculture, the state has gone from zero hemp

production to 12,000 acres in less than four years.

Researchers at the University of Louisville began harvesting the crop on campus in 2016 to study its use as a

biofuel and energy source The results of that program

have been favorable, and led to the manufacture of products that McConnell apparently had a chance to

check out last weekend.

In this August 2016 photo, researchers at the University of Louisville demonstrate how to plant hemp
seeds in their 40-foot by 40-foot plot.
(Photo courtesy of the University of Louisville’s Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research)















“I just had an opportunity to see some interesting and innovative products, some of which you see

here on the table, made with Kentucky-grown hemp,

” he said at the US Hemp Roundtable in Frankfort on Monday. “Sunstrand, based in Louisville,

contracts with farmers in Henry County to grow hemp that

they process into a number of consumer products, including home insulation.”

The state’s senior senator seemed quite taken with the commercial prospects of home-state hemp,

which he said was different than its “illicit cousin”:

“Imagine, instead of pink fiberglass, we could use Kentucky-grown, environmentally sustainable hemp

to insulate our houses. This represents just one

many uses that Kentuckians are finding for this versatile crop.”

Medical marijuana patients, especially those finding relief through the use of CBD, may find a vastly

expanded array of products available if hemp

were to be legalized nationwide.

In Kentucky, for example, Kings Royal Biotech, a company that develops medical-grade CBD from

hemp, broke ground on a new 75,000-square-foot

facility in the Carlisle County town of Bardwell on March 15. The company is expected to create 140

full-time jobs in the West Kentucky farming community.

Kings Royal expects to start processing locally grown hemp in late 2018, and ramp up to full

capacity by mid-2019.

“Industrial hemp is the next big thing in Kentucky,” Keith Taylor, chief operating officer at KRB,

said at the groundbreaking ceremony.

“The bourbon industry is synonymous with the state,

and it is our goal to reach that level of success, where any time someone thinks of hemp-related

products, they think of Kentucky.”

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