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February 15, 2013

Kentucky wants to make hemp a cash crop again

FRANKFORT, Ky. — State lawmakers would like to see a plant that is biologically similar to marijuana once again grow tall in Kentucky fields.

The state Senate passed a bill to legalize growing hemp if the federal government — which currently bans growing the plant — legalizes its production or grants the state a waiver.

Meanwhile, Kentucky’s two Republican U.S. Senators, Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell, along with Oregon Democratic Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, introduced legislation to allow American farmers to cultivate and profit from industrial hemp.

Their bill would remove federal restrictions on the domestic cultivation of industrial hemp, which is currently is a Schedule I controlled substance.

Hemp used to be a major crop in Kentucky. Famed statesman  Henry Clay was a major producer and seller of the plant, which can be used to manufacture paper, composite materials and oils for a variety of products and uses.

But after World War II, the government banned hemp because of its similarity to marijuana. Hemp has a much lower percentage of THC, the chemical that produces the marijuana smoker’s high.

Proponents say smokers can’t get high smoking hemp and that it offers Kentucky a potentially lucrative agricultural crop.

But law enforcement agencies say it is impossible to distinguish by sight between the two and say it will make their marijuana eradication efforts more difficult.

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Details for ths story were provided by Ronnie Ellis, Frankfort bureau chief for CNHI News Service.

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