President Trump signed a bill on Thursday that would legalize industrial hemp to be cultivated and manufactured in the United States.
The $867 billion farm bill that Trump signed into law will bring sweeping changes to the agricultural industry, which includes the full-scale legalization of industrial hemp. Hemp was considered illegal prior to this law being signed due to it being one of the many types of the cannabis plant (more commonly known as marijuana). Cannabis is still a schedule 1 drug, meaning which it’s not yet legal to distribute at the federal level, either medically or recreationally.
Hemp, however, is the non-intoxicating derivative of cannabis and is primarily used in products such as cardboard boxes, carpets, clothing, and paper products. Now, thanks to the new farm bill that was put into place, hemp products can now be manufactured legally, rather than classified the same as marijuana.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), along with his junior colleague, Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), worked across the aisle with Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) to introduce a bill that legalized hemp. That legislation was ultimately included in the farm bill — a rare bipartisan gesture in a very volatile political climate since President Trump was elected in 2016.
“I used my very own hemp pen to sign the conference report, clearing the way for the House and Senate to pass legislation and send it to the president’s desk.” Sen. McConnell said when the farm bill advanced in the Senate earlier this month.
McConnell has also championed the legalization of industrial hemp due to it being one of the key products his home state of Kentucky is known for producing, and at one point was known as the leading producer of hemp. McConnell called hemp marijuana’s “illicit cousin” and wanted to see it taken off the list of controlled substances. The Kentucky Republican introduced the bill in the Senate earlier this year, but couldn’t get the votes on the original legislation, deciding instead to include it in the bipartisan farm bill to help aid its passage.
In spite of the rhetoric that Republicans are against anything regarding cannabis or cannabis-related items — including hemp — recent polling shows conservatives actually favor the legalization of marijuana and have softened their stance on considering hemp a controlled substance.
Brandon Howard is a Grit Post contributor, auto worker, and former public radio reporter based out of Lexington, Kentucky. Follow him on Twitter @mrpowerhoward.