After the recent introduction of bill SB 50, which received backing from Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, Kentucky Governor Beshear has announced he will take no action on the measure, which by default makes Kentucky the ninth U.S. state to allow growing of industrial hemp.
The victory is being celebrated by hemp advocacy organizations and manufacturers of hemp products who can legally sell hemp foods, oils and other finished hemp products in the U.S., but cannot grow the plant, forcing them to source from hemp farmers in countries including Canada and China. “Kentucky has a long history of industrial hemp farming, and the state is poised to lead the hemp farming and processing industry again, as soon as the federal government recognizes the value of hemp and allows states to oversee its production,” Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, the nation's largest hemp advocacy organization, said in a statement. “With the U.S. hemp industry valued at an estimated $500 million in annual retail sales and growing, a change in federal policy to once again allow hemp farming would mean instant job creation, among many other economic and environmental benefits."
Other states may also see pending legislation pass including Alabama, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia—all of which have had hemp measures introduced this year. Michigan is expected to add one as well. But with strict Federal regulations still prohibiting hemp under the Controlled Substances Act, it's unlikely that industrial hemp will be growing anytime soon in the U.S.
Currently, hemp is categorized as a Schedule 1 banned substance by the Controlled Substances Act for its relative similarity to its cousin cannabis, which contains high levels of psychoactive mind-altering chemicals. But industrial hemp differs from marijuana in that it does not produce a high, and has a multitude of industrial uses. It's commonly found in Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap, and the shelled hemp seeds are highly nutritious, now available in a number of foods. It can also be made into a clothing textile and an alternatives to plastic and petroleum.
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Image: Ryan Leighty