Kentucky lawmakers show support for legalization of hemp farming

Published: Apr. 4, 2018 at 7:03 PM CDT
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Several Kentucky lawmakers including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the state's Agriculture Commissioner are showing support for the legalization of hemp.

Hemp is a cannabis plant that is grown for the use of its industrial fibers. Ryan Quarles, Kentucky's Commissioner of Agriculture, says the plant has several benefits including using the fibers for concrete mixtures, clothing, foods, and also using the CBD extract for helping create medical solutions for people with epilepsy.

"There's a wide variety of industrial uses for industrial Hemp which makes this a unique crop compared to corn or soybeans or wheat, which are run similarly," Quarles says.

WKU's agriculture department is one of the 57 locations where the state allows for industrial hemp growth in its research pilot program.

Paul Woosley and Todd Willian are professors at the university who oversee the hemp research program at WKU. They say Western's program allows for information that could contribute to future legalization.

"What we're doing is kind of a proactive approach anticipating legislation that may free up registration of some of these products in the future," says Todd WIllian, professor of Agronomy at WKU.

The Commissioner says the economic impact is already being felt.

"Just last year alone, 81 jobs were created, over $25 million capital investment were made in Kentucky, and over $16 million worth of industrial Hemp products were grown by Kentucky farmers and sold throughout the United States," states Quarles.

Currently, Hemp is listed on the banned and controlled substance list because of its similarity to marijuana. However, farmers and lawmakers both say that shouldn't be the case.

"If it was decoupled then there would be more federal dollars available to conduct research with industrial Hemp," says Dr. Paul Woosley. director of the Agriculture Education Research Center.

"Kentucky, like other states, have shown a good faith effort that we can grow this crop and keep it separate from it elicit cousin," adds Quarles.

Senator Mitch McConnell has shown support in the legalization of the crop and is constructing a bill to present legislators. Quarles says he believes it could pass before the year's end.

"We believe that if this legislation passes, it will open the floodgates toward investment and economic growth," says Quarles.