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Senator Mitch McConnell Pushes US Hemp Legalisation to the Finish Line

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already declared victory Tuesday regarding the so-called Farm Bill that has been slowly working its way through both chambers of US Congress. McConnell told the Associated Press that the Senate would soon be ready for a vote that could fully legalise the growth of hemp in America.

The Senate Agriculture Committee reviewed the Farm Bill on Wednesday, which includes a provision that would strike hemp off the DEA’s list of Schedule I controlled substances. Hemp, and all cannabis species, were made Schedule I in 1970 even though hemp contains a negligible amount of THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid.

American hemp is the source for many global producers of cannabidiol, or CBD – the non-psychoactive cannabinoid that many are turning to for chronic pain, anxiety, and depression relief. Currently, it is only legal to grow hemp in states that have passed their own initiatives to do so. The Farm Bill would make it legal for farmers across the country to grow and sell hemp.

“We’ve won the argument that this is not about marijuana,” McConnell said about hemp. “Now we just need to pass the law. And I’m in a uniquely well-situated position to make that happen.”

One exception to the federal ban on hemp is McConnell’s state of Kentucky, which has been part of a federal pilot program since 2014. Although the DEA attempted to confiscate some hemp seeds during the first year of the program, state officials have authorized a further 5,650 hectares of hemp to be planted this year.

As the CBD market continues to expand, so will the opportunities for farmers where it is legal to grow hemp. The new crop could be a potential driver for economic growth and job creation as CBD producers seek out new sources of raw plant material for their products.

Brian Furnish, an 8th generation tobacco farmer in Kentucky, said this is the first year his family’s farm has earned more money from hemp than tobacco. His 243-hectare crop of hemp is used for food, medicine, and a new high-end clothing line called “Hemp Black”.

“It’s tremendous for us,” he said. “We can start going after crop insurance and research dollars.”