Almost everybody in Washington, D.C. loves hemp these days, it seems. And the support crosses party lines at a time when Republicans and Democrats agree on very little.
Days after the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly voted to approve a bill that includes provisions to finally legalize marijuana’s non-psychoactive cannabis cousin, the chamber’s top Republican and Democratic leaders are taking the time to visit home-state hemp facilities.
GOP Leader Mitch McConnell spent time on Thursday touring a Kentucky plant that processes hemp grown in accordance with the state’s federally sanction research program.
At Sunstrand in Louisville, where @SenateMajLdr and @KYAgCommish are looking at bales of Kentucky-grown hemp. Sen. Mitch McConnell shepherded a bill legalizing hemp in this year’s farm bill, passed by the Senate last week. pic.twitter.com/COc4PmA876
— Mark Vanderhoff (@WLKYMark) July 5, 2018
McConnell gets a demo of hemp separating machine, used to separate strands. pic.twitter.com/cvWjtxNoMy
— Thomas Novelly (@TomNovelly) July 5, 2018
On Tuesday, Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer visited hemp fields in upstate New York.
— Dave Lucas (@davelucas) July 3, 2018
“The federal government made a mistake when they labeled hemp as a controlled substance, putting it on par with dangerous substances like heroin. In reality, industrial hemp is an oyster with a pearl of opportunities that could mean millions in economic revenue while also helping to support new local jobs in Columbia, Greene, and Rensselaer counties,” Schumer said in a press release.
Earlier this year, McConnell introduced a standalone bill to legalize hemp that Schumer quickly joined as a cosponsor.
They and a broad group of bipartisan supporters succeeded in inserting the hemp provisions into broader agriculture and food policy legislation known as the Farm Bill, which the Senate passed by a vote of 86 – 11 last Thursday.
Despite the cannabis collaboration on hemp, however, the GOP leader isn’t ready to support Schumer’s broader bill to reform federal marijuana laws so that states can implement recreational legalization without federal interference.
“These are two entirely separate plants,” McConnell said when asked about the marijuana push. “There is a lot of confusion about what hemp is. It has an illicit cousin, which I choose not to embrace.”
In the meantime, hemp advocates are working to make sure the Senate’s Farm Bill legalization language survives the bicameral conference committee that will merge both chamber’s bills into a single proposal to send to President Trump’s desk. The House bill doesn’t have any provisions to allow hemp.
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