Energy & Environment

McConnell backs hemp bill

McConnell backs hemp bill

Lawmakers in Kentucky hoping to cash in on the state’s cash crop by legalizing the farming of industrial hemp got a significant boost of support from one of the most powerful Republicans in Washington, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“I am convinced that allowing its production will be a positive development for Kentucky’s farm families and economy,” McConnell said.

“The utilization of hemp to produce everything from clothing to paper is real and if there is a capacity to center a new domestic industry in Kentucky that will create jobs in these difficult economic times that sounds like a good thing to me,” McConnell said.

McConnell declared his support after meeting with fellow Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who is sponsoring legislation to lift the federal ban on hemp production, as well as the state’s Agriculture Commissioner, James Comer, who is backing an initiative in the state legislature’s to allow its production.

“Commissioner Comer has assured me that his office is committed to pursuing industrialized hemp production in a way that does not compromise Kentucky law enforcement’s marijuana eradication efforts or in any way promote illegal drug use,” McConnell said.

With McConnell’s support, the chances are better that freshman Paul’s bill will be taken up for consideration in Congress this session. Kentucky advocates for legalizing hemp say that without federal support, the state initiative is moot.

Prior to the Civil War, hemp production was legal in Kentucky and grown to manufacture rope and other fabrics. Although it’s not illegal, the plant continues to grow wild throughout the state’s forests. It is also cultivated illegally and police confiscate nearly $1 billion worth of the weed yearly.

The difference between hemp grown to produce materials and marijuana for drug consumption is the level of THC in each plant – about one percent for hemp and upwards of 15 percent for marijuana.

Reviving the industry could boost the state’s faltering economy, where unemployment continues to hover above eight percent, supporters said.

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