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Hemp Legalization Bill Draws Unlikely Bedfellows

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Oregon Democratic lawmakers Wyden and Merkley are on board—but they are joined by Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell.

Posted: Apr. 12, 2018 4:48 PM
Updated: Apr. 12, 2018 5:01 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C. — An effort to legalize hemp at a federal level has arrived at the U.S. Senate in the form of the 'Hemp Farming Act of 2018.' Two of the bill's chief sponsors are familiar Oregon Democrats—Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-Or). The third sponsor is U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

"During the recent state work period, I talked to a number of farmers, manufacturers, and small business owners who expressed enthusiasm for hemp’s potential, and I was proud to stand with Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles to announce the impending introduction of this bill,” said Senator McConnell.

According to a joint statement from the sponsors, the bill aims to legalize and define hemp as a purely agricultural commidity—removing it from the list of controlled substances.

The bill would also make states the primary regulators of hemp, make hemp farmers eligibile for crop insurance, and allow researchers to apply for federal grants from the Department of Agriculture.

“It’s past time that we move beyond these outdated and frustrating restrictions on hemp farming in the United States. If we’re selling hemp products in the United States, we should be growing hemp in the United States – it’s good for jobs, good for our communities, and it’s just common sense,” said Senator Merkley.

"Hemp products are made in this country, sold in this country and consumed in this country. Senator McConnell, our colleagues and I are going to keep pushing to make sure that if Americans can buy hemp products at the local supermarket, American farmers can grow hemp in this country,” said Senator Wyden.

Congressman James Comer (R-KY) is set to introduce a similar bill to the House of Representatives.

McConnell, Merkley, and Wyden teamed up in 2014 to support hemp pilot programs, according to the statement. In 2016, they fought for clarification of laws for hemp farmers, who found themselves regulated by three different federal agencies for the growing and selling of industrial hemp.

The text of the Hemp Farming Act can be viewed below.

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