SHELBY COUNTY, KY (WDRB) -- Will Kentucky farmers ever get to grow hemp?
The future of hemp production in the state is now in the hands of the U.S. Congress.
"It was interesting, we went to the Department of Energy and the lady that met us was wearing a hemp dress," said Kentucky State Senator Paul Hornback on his farm after a trip to Washington D.C. to urge the federal government to legalize hemp.
It was Hornback whose bill successfully made it through the Kentucky General Assembly, earlier this year.
The bill sets the regulations for the growing and production of hemp in Kentucky if the federal government lifts its ban on the crop.
Hornback is cautiously optimistic that Congress will legalize the now-forbidden crop.
"We know how slow Congress moves," said Hornback, "I think that is the biggest problem. We know how they delay things, but I think when rational people sit down and look at the issue they realize it is an economic driver, not only for Kentucky, but for the U.S. as well."
A congressional study has said hemp is contained in as many as 25,000 products, including food products, auto parts and textiles.
Says Hornback, "It will be good for farmers, it will be good for people processing and manufacturing it, it will be good for a lot of companies located here in the state that have contacted us wanting to use some of the products."
On his 700-acre farm, Hornback grows corn, soybeans, wheat and tobacco.
He says if hemp is legalized he will add that to his farm.
"I intend to, and like any other farmer, will look at the economics of it -- and we will decide if it is a good cash crop...and that will determine if we continue to grow it."
Hornback believes concerns that it will be difficult for law enforcement to distinguish marijuana from hemp are unfounded, and points out that law enforcement in Canada -- where hemp has been legal since 1998 -- does not have this problem.
Legalizing hemp has bi-partisan support.
U.S. Senator Rand Paul has introduced legislation that would allow farmers to grow it.
Congressman John Yarmuth of Louisville believes the best chance to legalize it is to have it as an amendment to the five-year farm bill now being drafted in Congress.
Mitch McConnell, the senior senator from Kentucky, also supports the legalization of hemp.
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