Industrial Hemp Bill Passes Senate Floor

Last week, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican Representative for KY, inserted cannabis provisions into the 2018 Farm Bill, successfully removing hemp from the federal definition of marijuana. The move effectively protects state industrial hemp research programs from federal prosecution and would allow hemp producers to apply and acquire federal crop insurance.

McConnell said last Wednesday,

“All the people in rural Kentucky who grew up with tobacco are hoping that this will be really something. And as we all know, hemp is very diversified. It can end up in your car dashboard, it can end up in food, it can end up in certain kinds of pharmaceuticals. It’s time to figure it out and see where the market will take us. I think it’s an important new development in American agriculture.”

Despite the momentum, the bill did receive some criticism and resistance from Senator Chuck Grassley, who filed an amendment to “modify the definition of the term ‘hemp’ and make a determination as to whether cannabidiol [CBD] should be a controlled substance”.

However the following response from supporters of the bill was swift, with proponents such as the Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture, and Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, professing the economic potential of the cash crop and its numerous successes.

“Kentucky’s farmers and processors are making innovative CBD products available to consumers. We recorded millions of dollars in sales revenues last year. The Grassley Amendment must be STOPPED in its tracks” – Commissioner Quarles

“Hemp has proven itself as a job-creating growth industry with far-reaching economic potential. It’s just common sense that farmers in Oregon and across our country should be allowed to cultivate this cash crop” – Senator Wyden

Having passed the Senate floor, the bill now awaits the signature of the President, and if passed, would end the prohibition of hemp production and processing within the country. With its current standing, it is illegal to produce hemp outside of a state research program, forcing many processors to import the raw materials from abroad.

Being a pioneer for industrial hemp within the country doesn’t make McConnel a supporter of cannabis legislation however. To quote,

“It has an illicit cousin, which I choose not to embrace.”

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