Mitch McConnell

Industrialized hemp advocates received surprising support last week from Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), when the Senate Minority Leader endorsed the legalization of industrial hemp in his home state.

Hemp, a close of relative of marijuana, does not contain the psychoactive compounds that make marijuana illegal in most of the country. Hemp is a diverse crop with uses in industry, such as plastic, paper, rope and fuel, and it’s also a highly nutritious food and skin care product. The U.S. currently allows the import of finished hemp products (which come mostly from Canada) for use in manufacturing.

In a statement release by his Washington office, McConnell made his support clear: “After long discussions with Senator Rand Paul and Commissioner James Comer on the economic benefits of industrialized hemp, I am convinced that allowing its production will be a positive development for Kentucky’s farm families and economy.”

McConnell’s statement comes three days after members of Kentucky’s law enforcement division opposed legalizing hemp, suggesting it a step closer to legalizing marijuana, it’s botanical “cousin.”

Responding to the connection, McConnell said in his statement that, “Commissioner Comer has assured me that his office is committed to pursuing industrialized hemp production in a way that does not compromise Kentucky law enforcement’s marijuana eradication efforts or in any way promote illegal drug use.”

On February 11, Commissioner Comer is expected to testify before Kentucky’s Senate Agriculture Committee on the bill that that would allow farmers in the state to grow industrial hemp legally.

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Image: Gage Skidmore