LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Hemp could become Kentucky's next cash crop, but there are still hurdles to cross.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday it's "absurd" that the U.S. imports hemp products but puts severe restrictions on American-grown hemp. The Kentucky Republican is looking to change that by legalizing hemp in the next federal farm bill.

McConnell spoke to reporters while touring Sunstrand, a hemp processing plant in Louisville. He was promoting the farm bill, which would legalize hemp production.

His proposal to bring back hemp as an agricultural commodity was in the Senate-passed version of the farm bill. The measure next goes to a House-Senate conference committee. McConnell said he's "optimistic" the hemp language will be in the final product.

"We wanted this product to be lightly regulated by the Department of Agriculture, not the Department of Justice, because it doesn't belong in controlled substances," he said. "This year's version of the bill takes hemp out of the controlled substances act."

His proposal would remove hemp from the controlled substances list that currently associates the crop with its cousin, marijuana. Hemp and marijuana are the same species, but hemp has a negligible amount of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high.

McConnell said it's extremely important for Kentucky to have this opportunity going forward.

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