- REUTERS/Enrique Marcarian
The Kentucky Senate recently passed a bill legalizing the industrial cultivation of hemp, paving way for farmers in the state to explore the economic viability of the plant.
Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell working with Sen. Rand Paul, along with two senators from Oregon, introduced a bill that would allow farmers to begin growing the crop. They explained that expanding the hemp industry is a smart way to create jobs and add much needed economic opportunities to the state.
"This legislation has the potential to create jobs and provide a boost to Kentucky's economy and to our farmers and their families," McConnell told reporters during a press conference.
The two Senators from Oregon, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, are pushing hard for similar measures in their state, which recently voted against a measure that would have legalized marijuana for recreational use in the state.
But research suggests that the economic possibilities are real and is the main driving force behind these collective efforts. A report facilitated by the Hemp Industries Association published in January details that retail sales in the United States of products that used imported hemp were estimated to have been valued at over $50 million in 2011 alone.
Hemp itself has been used by various civilizations over time and currently can be used in over 25,000 different applications. Hemp is used in building material and biofuels and can even be used in plastics, soap and clothes.
However, with the increased advocacy for state legislators to pass measures easing laws on Hemp, those in law enforcement are cautioning that increased hemp production would lead to an increase in illegal growers and that it is just as dangerous as marijuana.
"We've heard that you can't get high off of hemp. You can get high off of hemp," warned Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rodney Brewer.
Congressman Greg Stumbo, of Prestonsburg, echoed those thoughts saying the increased risk to law enforcement is not worth the possible economic benefit.
"It's not that we're saying 'no,'" Stumbo told AP. "We're simply saying that the evidence doesn't show that there's enough of a market to override the concerns that the law enforcement community has."