In New Bill, McConnell Plants Seeds for Legal Hemp


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced a new bill that would legalize hemp as an agricultural commodity.

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The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 would remove hemp from the federal list of controlled substances and allow states to be the primary regulators of hemp. McConnell made the announcement on March 26, alongside Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles during the U.S. Hemp Roundtable in Frankfort, Ky.

“Hemp has played a foundational role in Kentucky’s agricultural heritage, and I believe that it can be an important part of our future,” McConnell said in a press release. 

The legislation would also allow hemp researchers to apply for federal grants from the Department of Agriculture. 

The Kentucky Agriculture Department (KDA) is currently conducting a pilot program to grow hemp, which was mandated and funded through the 2014 farm bill.

Farmers planted 33 acres in the first year of the Hemp Research Pilot Program, according to the KDA. Farmers planted over 900 acres in 2015, and about 500 were successfully harvested. 

McConnell plans to introduce the bill in the Senate following the state work period. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will co-sponsor the bill, which is also backed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, McConnell said. 

Similar legislation was introduced in the 115th Congress, in both the House and the Senate that would amend the Controlled Substances Act “to exclude cannabidiol and cannabidiol-rich plants from the definition of marihuana,” intended to promote the possible medical applications of industrial hemp.