McConnell wants to modernize hemp regulations

Hemp field farmed by Interval company in Arc-Les-Gray near Dijon central eastern France

Hemp field farmed by Interval company in Arc-Les-Gray near Dijon central eastern France

The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 would legalize hemp by removing it entirely from the federal controlled substances list.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he tends to focus on congressional decisions more than comments coming out of the White House.

Until recently, hemp had been banned entirely under the Controlled Substances Act, which categorizes all forms of cannabis as a Schedule I substance.

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A non-flowering variant of the cannabis plant, hemp has hundreds of potential commercial uses, including food, fuel, biodegradable plastic, paint and clothing. In addition to opening the fields for hemp, it will give researchers the chance to apply for federal grants from the Department of Agriculture.

In the past, McConnell has helped create new federal and state legal permissions for hemp, as well as helped shepherd hemp into the 2014 farm bill. Thus far, the bill has been co-sponsored by Democrat Ron Wyden and fellow Kentucky Republican Rand Paul, which gives it a good, bipartisan shot as passage. Since the US has been out of the hemp game for some time, harvesting innovations haven't occurred.

The 2014 Farm Bill for the first time in decades said that states are free to regulate the cultivation of hemp - but the provision came with several caveats. "But one thing I know for certain is, due to the farmer lead research here in Kentucky we are the best positioned state in the nation to capture the economic impact of industrial hemp if and when it becomes commercialized".

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Since then, 34 states have authorized hemp research, while actual production occurred in 19 states previous year, said Eric Steenstra, president of the advocacy group Vote Hemp. He and his predecessor, Jamie Comer, have been real champions for the research and development of industrial hemp in the Commonwealth. The Trump administration has taken a tougher stance on marijuana.

Despite the DEA's stance on CBD oil, numerous states have chose to allow hemp farmers to extract it from their crops, including Kentucky. Since it passed, Kentucky's hemp industry has been booming.

McConnell said he plans to emphasize the differences between the plants to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He said the measure would allow states to have primary regulatory oversight of hemp production if they submit plans to federal agriculture officials outlining how they would monitor production.

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"We all are so optimistic that industrial hemp can become sometime in the future what tobacco was in Kentucky's past", McConnell said at a press conference announcing the bill. Tobacco production dropped sharply in Kentucky amid declining smoking rates.

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