Washington, D.C., USA: Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday that he will introduce a bill – Hemp Farming Act of 2018 – to remove hemp from the list of controlled substances thereby legalizing it as an agricultural product nationwide. The fiber and seed of the Cannabis Sativa L. plant is hemp while the flower of the same plant is marijuana.
“Hemp has played a foundational role in Kentucky’s agricultural heritage, and I believe that it can be an important part of our future,” McConnell said while in his home state of Kentucky, where the potential of hemp farming has popular support.
The Senator from Kentucky pointed to the University of Kentucky’s industrial hemp research pilot program, which he said revealed many “successes” that could be had in the state through hemp farming.
“The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 will help Kentucky enhance its position as the leading state on hemp production. This legislation also will remove the federal barriers in place that have stifled the industry, which will help expand the domestic production of hemp. It will also give hemp researchers the chance to apply for competitive federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture – allowing them to continue their impressive work with the support of federal research dollars.” McConnell’s office also said in a statement.
Kentucky’s Commissioner of Agriculture, Ryan Quarles, added that the program has “established a model for how other states can do the same with buy-in from growers, processors, and law enforcement.”
The bill reportedly has bipartisan support and could be included in the next farm bill, due in September.
Other states with agricultural bases looking to get involved in hemp production are also eager to see it pass.
Geoff Whaling, chairman of the National Hemp Association and owner of a farm in Pennsylvania, told Penn Live that his state could soon begin farming 100,000 acres of hemp. “This is big,” he said.
Cultivation of hemp for industrial purposes has been done by many civilizations for over 12,000 years. Industrial hemp was the desired fiber used to manufacture rope, canvas, paper, and clothing until alternative textiles and synthetics for these purposes were discovered.
Although China has been the largest hemp producer over the years, other countries such as Australia and Canada are catching up.
It has been illegal for anyone to grow hemp in the United States as hemp is illegal under the marijuana prohibition act.
17th Century America, farmers in Virginia, Massachusetts and Connecticut were ordered by law to grow Indian hemp. By the early 18th century, a person could be sentenced to jail if they weren’t growing hemp on their land! Hemp was considered to be legal tender. For over 200 years in colonial America, hemp was currency that one could use to pay their taxes with!
When Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937, the decline of hemp effectively began. The tax and licensing regulations of the act made hemp cultivation nearly impossible for American farmers. Anslinger, the chief promoter of the Tax Act, argued for anti-marijuana legislation around the world.
From 1937 until the late 1960s the United States government recognized that Industrial Hemp and marijuana were two distinct varieties of the cannabis plant. After the Controlled Substances Act was passed, hemp was no longer recognized as being distinct from marijuana. McConnell’s Hemp Farming Act of 2018 appears about to change that.