Sell it, but don’t grow it! Sounds strange, doesn’t it? The retail hemp industry in the States is currently worth half a billion dollars per year, according to one estimate in SFGate. Growing hemp is a big no-no, but that sure hasn’t stopped it from being sold in the States. Check out the recent Farm Bill, because there’s an Easter egg in it that could kickstart a very profitable crop in American soil.
A short clause buried deep in the 959-page bill authorizes colleges and universities to grow industrial hemp for research purposes, so long as their state permits the growth and cultivation of the plant.
Right now, that’s nine states: California, Oregon, Montana, Colorado, North Dakota, Kentucky, West Virginia, Vermont, and Maine. Another 11 states have bills pending before their legislatures this year. (Washington Post)
Damn, growing hemp for research purposes only. That didn’t get far. Well, we got a little extra buffer room, thanks to Sen. Mitch McConnell. He somehow managed to squeeze in state departments of agriculture as well. This opens the door for creative minds like Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner, James Comer, to start pulling together partnerships between universities and private farmers, according to WDRB.
“For months, we have tried to get some assurance at the federal level that Kentucky producers can grow industrial hemp without fear of government harassment or prosecution. This is what we’ve been waiting for,” Comer said. I appreciate Sen. Mitch McConnell’s efforts to get hemp language in the farm bill. Without his protection of the language, there is no way it would have survived the process. I’m also grateful to Sen. Rand Paul and Reps. John Yarmuth and Thomas Massie for supporting our efforts from the beginning.” (Lexington Herald-Leader)
Mind you, it’s not all across the board legalization for growing hemp, but this does give much-needed breathing room for the hemp farmers who participate in these partnerships or hemp pilot programs. They can experiment with hemp crops without worrying about surprise visits from the Feds. (This doesn’t save them from surprise visits from in-laws but, hey, there’s only so much that the government can do, right?)
It’s not The Big Win for industrial hemp but Sen. Paul is glad to have it. He wrote about in the Lexington Herald-Leader:
“In the process of debating this issue, we’ve cut through the clutter and dispelled a lot of myths about industrial hemp. Winning those arguments was worth the fight, even if it seemed pretty futile at the start. That’s a good lesson to share and remember.”
Growing hemp hasn’t been legal for decades. Kentucky hasn’t even seen hemp crops since the ’30s, says WDRB. It doesn’t change the fact though that’s it’s a multimillion dollar industry that’s imports a product from overseas that we already use. But we can’t grow it. Yes, hemp might look like marijuana but it’s is about as edgy as your shampoo or sweater. So far, various states have given the go for hemp farming, but farmers still risk everything if the federal government ever decides to crack down. The Farm Bill is a start but there’s more to go.
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