The push to designate hemp a legitimate cash crop in the United States received a renewed boost this week from the country’s most prominent senator.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he is introducing a bill removing hemp from the federal Controlled Substances Act, which renews efforts that gained some bipartisan support in recent years, Concord Monitor reports.
McConnell said, “Hemp has played a foundational role in Kentucky’s agricultural heritage, and I believe that it can be an important part of our future.”
Hemp, or industrial hemp, is a member of the cannabis genus, but contains only trace amounts of THC, making it non-psychoactive. Hemp fibers can be utilized to create rope, clothing and paper, while hemp seed oil is usable in cosmetics, foods, paper and many other items.
McConnell has been advocating for hemp cultivation for about four years. In 2014, he supported a provision in the farm bill to permit for a hemp cultivation pilot program in his state. In 2015, he co-sponsored a hemp legalization bill introduced by Senators Jeff Merkley, Ron Wyden, and Rand Paul. Paul has played an important role in influencing McConnell to become a supporter for the industrial hemp industry.
McConnell is now a lead sponsor of the bill and has gained momentous bipartisan support for hemp legalization, and the effort could be successful this year.
McConnell said, “It’s now time to take the final step and make this a legal crop.”
While nixing hemp from the Controlled Substances Act would indicate that cultivators wouldn’t require a federal permit, the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 still gives the federal Agriculture Department oversight of individual states’ hemp production programs, according to McConnell’s office. The Agriculture Department would issue competitive grants to industrial hemp researchers working to develop cultivation methods and viable uses for the plant.