A report card of sorts grading hemp's impact on Kentucky showed these scores:
Eighty-one new full-time jobs. More than $16.7 million in gross product sales. And $7.5 million for farmers.
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles included these figures from last year in an April 24 letter to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul calling hemp's economic impact "significant."
"My goal is to make Kentucky an epicenter for hemp farmers and processors," Quarles wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained this week by Courier Journal.
He said he wants Kentucky to "have a head start in the race against competitors in other states," as he anticipates Congress will remove the crop from the list of federally controlled substances. McConnell is pushing for this legislative change to remove a barrier inhibiting the versatile plant some call marijuana's kissing cousin. This would clear up confusion about whether its products are or aren't legal.
McConnell was key to the federal "2014 Farm Bill" that gave states the power to allow industrial hemp and to test the market to see if consumers would buy its products — which range from "super-food" seeds to clothing and cannabidiol or CBD oils used to treat headaches. The Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol — a psychoactive compound better known as THC — was limited to 0.3, a negligible amount that won't allow for a buzz.
In Kentucky, hemp can only be grown with the approval of state agriculture officials while it remains a controlled substance. Quarles said other states have called for help modeling their program after the one Kentucky uses.
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