Frankfort, KY - U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is pushing to legalize hemp as an agricultural commodity.

On Monday, the GOP leader and Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles (R-KY)announced their planto introduce legislation in the U.S. Senate to support Kentucky’s hemp industry.

The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 will legalize hemp as an agricultural commodity and remove it from the list of controlled substances.

McConnell took the first step to support hemp in 2014 by spearheading a provision that would allow hemp to belegally produced for research.  Since then, the research has shown the potential of hemp as an agricultural commodity. Kentucky then became one of the nation's top producers, but not just anyone can grow it. Agriculture officials must approve applications to grow or process the crop.

“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 told the crowd gathered in his home state.
The new bill will not only reclassify hemp under federal law, but "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."

Hemp and marijuana come from the same species of plant, but hemp has a negligible amount of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high. But the connection has sidelined hemp production for decades. Growing hemp without a federal permit was banned due to its classification as a controlled substance related to marijuana.

Since the 2014 federal Farm Bill allowed experimental hemp production, crop production has spread but remains tiny.

So far, 34 states have authorized hemp research, according to the advocacy group Vote Hemp. Actual production took place in 19 states last year. Hemp production totaled 25,541 acres (10,336 hectares) in 2017, more than double the 2016 output.

The hemp industry could grow to nearly $2 billion in sales by 2020, according to Sean Murphy, Founder, Hemp Business Journal, asreportedin WholeFoods Magazine.

McConnell plans to introduce the bill in the Senate, with Sen. Rand Paul and a bipartisan group of members, following this state work period.

In January, wereportedAttorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to rescind the 2013 Obama administration memo saying it would not stand in the way of states that legalize marijuana.

On Tuesday, meanwhile, N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy expanded the allowable reasons for residents to receive medical marijuana cards — including anxiety.