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No to Marijuana, Yes to Hemp

We are a state where legalization of marijuana is a hard sell and unlikely to gain the approval of legislators any time soon. But what about a crop like hemp, that has no value as a drug of abuse and is considered farmer-friendly?

Because hemp is the same plant as smokable marijuana (they are both cannabis), when laws against weed were written, hemp became regulated as well. For awhile, it was possible to grow cannabis for fiber with a license, but hemp farming has fallen by the wayside as other fibers, primarily artificial ones like nylon and rayon came to dominate the market. With recent national interest in marijuana for medical purposes, the uses of hemp are once again being mentioned. Along with this comes the idea of hemp as a possible cash crop in times of agricultural need.

When Kentucky, a state that also does not allow marijuana use, passed a bill to approve of hemp farming if cannabis is legalized federally, our legislators took notice. Why let Kentucky reap the potential rewards and not get on the band wagon ourselves? That’s what two state lawmakers think: Frank Niceley and Andy Holt, who plan to introduce legislation during the next session.

Just as in Kentucky (and six other states), the measure would have no immediate effect. It would only legalize cannabis production (called, “industrial hemp”) when it becomes legal to do so under federal law. The purpose would be twofold however. The first would be to have laws in place so that production could start immediately, should the feds allow it, and the second is to show support for the idea of planting cannabis for fiber.

How much of an economic impact hemp would have (if legalized) is unknown. Considering cotton though, the potential is huge. Hemp can be harvested for its fiber and seeds can be used for oils. The plant is said to be very easy to grow, requiring less in the way of fertilizer, pesticides and weed control than other crops. It grows, well, like a weed.

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