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hemp

Hemp could be an important part of Kentucky’s future.

United States Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon have sent a letter to federal bureaucrats urging quick action to implement hemp legalization.

“We specifically drafted the Hemp Farming Act in a way that allows hemp pilot states to build upon the progress and investments made through the pilots established by the 2014 Farm Bill. Our states have seen tremendous success in researching and developing market opportunities for hemp through the state pilot programs, and we are hopeful that the growth and innovation we’ve seen through the pilots will continue to expand now that the domestic production of hemp and hemp products is legal,” the two, who teamed up on the federal legislation legalizing hemp production and products, wrote to officials at the United States Department of Agriculture.

Congress passed that legislation last year. It allows for states to regulate hemp within their jurisdictions. But federal regulators need to set up rules for interstate commerce and banking involving in hemp. The senators urged quick action on those and other regulations.

McConnell, of Kentucky, has long opposed legalization of hemp’s cousin, marijuana. But he pushed for hemp legalization because of its potential as a crop with which farmers in his state could replace tobacco. Kentucky has been a leading tobacco-producing state. But as attitudes and laws have shifted, farmers have been moving away from the crop.

According to the Los Angeles Times:

For centuries, tobacco barns dotted the central Kentucky landscape, but as health risks from smoking became clear, sales of the state’s longtime top crop plummeted. Farmers searching for an alternative focused on another crop with a long history here, stretching back to the 1700s. And it’s one that’s grown and dried similarly to tobacco.

Now the conservative state is on the front lines of what is expected to be a booming hemp industry nationwide. Some say the crop is as ingrained in the state’s culture as bourbon and thoroughbreds.