America’s federal legislators are finally warming up to hemp. On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry passed the 2018 Farm Bill by a vote of 20-1, advancing a federal hemp legalization measure to the Senate floor.
Combined, the federal support for industrial hemp indicates a change of heart. For Senator McConnell, who introduced successful legislation for a federal hemp growth pilot program in 2014 and personally added hemp legalization to this year’s Farm Bill, this month’s landslide votes have signaled significant change in general knowledge about the industrial plant.
“I think it’s time we took this step,” McConnell said before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry on Wednesday. In McConnell’s home state of Kentucky, agriculture experts predict hemp could help farming communities recover from a decline in tobacco production.
“All the people in rural Kentucky who grew up with tobacco are hoping that this will be really something,” McConnell said at Wednesday’s Senate hearing, according to Marijuana Moment. “And as we all know, hemp is very diversified. It can end up in your car dashboard, it can end up in food, it can end up in certain kinds of pharmaceuticals. It’s time to figure it out and see where the market will take us. I think it’s an important new development in American agriculture.”
The Farm Bill will now move to the Senate floor, where the hemp legalization amendment is predicted to receive continued support. Splits on government assistance may prove detrimental to the legislation’s timeline. Still, McConnell has said that he will do everything within his power as Senate Majority Leader to advance the bill to a full legislative vote before the Senate breaks for a July 4th holiday recess.