Senators Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Ron Wyden of Oregon have sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture urging bureaucrats to step on it when it comes to implementing 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,” the pair wrote. “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.”
McConnell, a Republican and the Senate Majority Leader, and Wyden, a Democrat, have teamed up to push for legalization. The pair is urging action in part to encourage regulators to take action that encourages financial institutions such as banks to work with farmers and hemp-related businesses.
The pair wrote that farmers continue to face problems related to hemp’s long status as an illegal crop when it comes to interstate trade and finance issues and urged quick action on the part of regulators to iron out those issues.
It may seem strange that McConnell, a long-time opponent of legal cannabis, has become one of the champions of hemp legalization. But his actions are rational, given the interests of his constituents.
Kentucky has traditionally been a top tobacco-producing state. But that crop’s popularity has faded, and farmers in the bluegrass state are hoping to replace it at least in part with hemp. As the Los Angeles Times reports:
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.