Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell fast-tracks bill to legalize hemp
The vaping industry may be under attack by the FDA and many lawmakers, but the hemp industry is receiving a massive political endorsement by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel. The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 will recategorize the plant as an agricultural product while removing it from the federal list of controlled substances. Its passage and signing into law by the President will make the farming and selling of hemp perfectly legal.
Furthermore, the bill is being rushed through the senate approval process by a rather obscure procedural move known as Rule 14 which allows the bill to forego the normal committee review process entirely. Although the move does not automatically guarantee a full vote by the Senate, the controversial piece of legislation could theoretically be introduced to the senate floor as early as May 21, 2018.
The bill is also receiving bipartisan support from a select group of hemp-friendly senators, including Sen Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), Sen. Jeff Merkely (D-Oregon), and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon). According to recent reports, Kentucky’s Agriculture Department in accordance with scientists from the University of Louisville is currently conducting a pilot program involving the growing of hemp as a biofuel and energy source. There are at least five Kentucky-based hemp pilot projects currently in the works.
McConnell’s special interests in legalized hemp
Kentucky’s interest in hemp is likely a significant reason for McConnell’s fast-tracking of the bill. McConnell was first elected to the Senate by The State of Kentucky in 1984, and as the current Senate Majority Leader, he holds a great deal of political clout on Capital Hill. In fact, McConnell is in nearly complete control as to which bills do and do not get a full-floor vote in the Senate. And what McConnell wants for his constituents, McConnell usually gets.
Regardless of what happens in the Senate, the bill must still be approved by a majority of the House before being signed by Donald Trump and enacted into law. House representatives might also make some tweaks and revisions to the bill along the way, which would then require a second confirmation vote by the Senate.
The legislation also makes clear that states can regulate the commodity as they see fit. Meanwhile, scientists and researchers can legally apply for federal funds and grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, state departments, and other sources. Hemp farmers will become eligible for crop insurance, too.
Today, some 34 states have passed laws legalizing hemp, but because the U.S. Department of Justice considers the plant to be a controlled substance, the federal laws overrule those of the states. The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 may level the playing field once and for all.
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