In a rare showing of bipartisanship, senators from both sides of the aisle have come together in an attempt to legalize the farming and production of hemp.
Politico reports that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has joined forces with none other than Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to pass a bill that would legalize the crop. McConnell had previously joined Rep. James Comer (R-KY) in his attempts to legalize hemp, as he takes an oil made from the crop to alleviate joint pain. Comer has been trying to get hemp legalized since 2012, and received a phone call from McConnell prior to a town hall saying the senator was about to publicly support hemp.
“He said, ‘I just wanted to run that by you to see if you had any problems with it.’ I about fainted, because I never would have dreamed that he would have taken an interest in the issue,” Comer told Politico.
In April 2018, McConnell introduced a hemp bill, which gained Schumer as a co-sponsor.
The idea of legalizing hemp strikes many as a win for marijuana, though the two plants are very different. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) says that hemp contains less than 1% of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. A person would not be able to smoke enough hemp to get high.
Hemp, meanwhile, contains more cannabidiol (CBD), which is used to make oils like the one Comer uses.
The plants also can’t be grown close together because if the plants breed (marijuana plants are typically female, while hemp plants are typically male), it will dilute the level of THC. Obviously, those growing for psychoactive purposes would not want this, so hiding marijuana plants in hemp fields is not a realistic fear.
Hemp can be made into fiber, food, oil, and many other products, which may be one of the reasons it struggles to be made legal (cotton farmers, for example, have strong lobbyists).
The Drug Enforcement Agency also opposes hemp legalization, though McConnell has tried to change that.
Legalization has been included in the Senate version of the farm bill as an amendment, but not in the House version.