Senate Majority Leader McConnell Announces Bill to Legalize Hemp

Updated April 13, 2018.

On Monday, March 26, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced he will introduce a bill to legalize hemp. During a speech in Frankfort, Kentucky, McConnell said he would propose the bipartisan bill next week in the Senate.

UPDATE: McConnell files the Hemp Farming Act.

Titled the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, the proposed bill would legalize hemp as an “agricultural commodity” and remove the plant from the controlled substances list. The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 would also designate federal money for the cultivation of hemp.

According to a press release from McConnell’s office, “[The Hemp Farming Act of 2018] builds upon the success we have seen through the hemp pilot programs by allowing states to be the primary regulators of hemp, if the U.S. Department of Agriculture approves their implementation plan. This legislation also will remove the federal barriers in place that have stifled the industry, which will help expand the domestic production of hemp. It will also give hemp researchers the chance to apply for competitive federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture – allowing them to continue their impressive work with the support of federal research dollars.”

McConnell helped to include hemp in the 2014 farm bill, which protects state industrial hemp research programs from federal impendence. However, even with the 2014 farm bill, there is still confusion over hemp, especially as the Drug Enforcement Administration has sought to enforce federal laws that classify hemp and marijuana as the same.

During the event, McConnell stated the new bipartisan legislation would remove this confusion altogether by “recognizing in federal statute the difference between hemp and its illicit cousin.”

McConnell Files the Hemp Farming Act

On Thursday, April 12, Senators Mitch McConnell, Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced the Hemp Farming Act of 2018. Numbered Senate Bill 2667, the legislation would legalize hemp, a non-psychoactive cannabis variety, and remove it from the list of controlled substances.

“By legalizing hemp and empowering states to conduct their own oversight plans, we can give the hemp industry the tools necessary to create jobs and new opportunities for farmers and manufacturers around the county,” said McConnell.

Under Senate Bill 2667, states would have the opportunity to become the primary regulators of hemp and hemp researchers could apply for competitive federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In addition, the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 would remove roadblocks that farmers and processors currently face by removing restrictions on items such as banking access and water rights. The legislation would also make USDA research funding available to farmers, and farmers would be eligible to apply for crop insurance.

House Bill 5485, a companion to SB 2667, was introduced by Reps. James Comer (R-KY) and Jared Polis (D-CO).

Watch Senator McConnell introduce the Hemp Farming Act here.

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