Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul propose legalizing hemp

Both Republican senators from Kentucky, along with Congressman Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), are set to introduce legislation that would remove hemp, or cannabis stalk, from the list of federally banned substances.

The reason for doing so is that big four letter word that politicians love to use: JOBS. Rep. Massie claims that the legalization of hemp would revive the textile and, to a lesser extent, the food industry. Hemp produces such products as health foods, oils, rope, cloth, paper, and fuel.

Massie also contends that the hemp industry will create 10 times as many jobs as the Keystone XL pipeline.

The bill is officially titled, “The Industrial Hemp Farming Act”, and enjoys bi-partisan support.

There is opposition to the bill however, as the National Narcotics Officers’ Associations Coalition and Rep. Hal Rodgers (R-Ky.) both argue that it is impossible for law enforcement to make an immediate determination as to whether a field of cannabis plants are hemp or marijuana.

President of the coalition, Bob Bushman, says that to distinguish between the two would require some level of “scientific” study, which is outside the realm of a policeman’s expertise.

Prior to the 1970s hemp was legal in the United States, and proponents of its re-legitimized status point to $580 million in imports of hemp products in 2013 alone. Still, Rep. Massie says Kentucky’s hemp coalition is going to have to change some stubborn minds on his side of the isle to get the bill through Congress.

“It’s harder to get a majority of Republicans to sign on to industrial hemp than it is to get Democrats”, he said. “There’s a stigma attached to it, and Republicans don’t want to be seen as weak on the war on drugs.”

Is the conservative 114th Congress for expanding economic opportunity in this sector or are they still faithful to the politics of the War on Drugs? The vote on this bill could be a political fork in the road for the new Republican majority.

 

[Politico] [Photo courtesy AP/J. Scott Applewhite]