Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has been at the forefront of an initiative to legalize hemp since 2010. Rand Paul is the son of Congressman Ron Paul, who is the nation’s most vocal critic of the War on Drugs.
In 2013, Senator Paul offered his support to a bill that would legalize industrial hemp in the United States. Between 2014 and 2016, Paul, along with Mitch McConnell, teamed up to introduce the Industrial Hemp Farming Act.
In 2018, Senator Paul continues to reaffirm his support for the deregulation of the industrial hemp industry.
Uses of Hemp
The push is on to make hemp, a non-psychoactive relative of the marijuana plant, legal. Why the push for hemp?
- Hemp fibers are stronger and softer than cotton, last twice as long and do not mildew.
- Hemp is frost-tolerant (unlike cotton) and requires far less water than cotton, making it suitable for cultivation in all 50 states.
- Hemp is ready for harvesting only 120 days after planting.
- Hemp requires no pesticides, no herbicides, and minimal fertilizer.
- Hemp is used to produce fiberboard that is stronger and lighter than fiberboard made from wood.
- Hemp can be used to produce environmentally-friendly plastic substitutes.
- 1 acre of hemp produces as much fiber as 2-3 acres of cotton and as much paper as 2-4 acres of trees.
- Hemp paper lasts hundreds of years without degrading, requires less toxic chemicals to produce, and can be recycled far more times than paper made from trees.
- Hemp oil can be used to produce environmentally-friendly diesel oil, lubricating oil, ethanol, varnish, ink, detergent, and paint.
- Hemp oil is used to make paper, cosmetics, and health-and-beauty products.
- Hemp seeds are edible and a great source of protein, fiber, and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Currently, US marijuana laws prevent farmers from cultivating the very same hemp plant that grows wild throughout the country. Hemp was, in fact, a major crop from the late 1700s to 1937, when the government’s War on Drugs has created a politically incorrect or taboo atmosphere around hemp.
It’s virtually impossible to visually differentiate a hemp plant from a marijuana plant. The differences lie in the plants’ chemistry (hemp has minute concentrations of the psychoactive chemical THC making it useless as a drug, unlike higher THC levels in marijuana that can get you high). Lack of visual identifying markers is the reason hemp is lumped in with the Schedule I drug classification that applies to marijuana.
The last decade has seen a resurgence of interest in the plant and it is becoming widely promoted as “the crop of the future” due to its many uses and ease of growing.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is in favor of a bill that would remove hemp from the federal government’s schedule of controlled substances. The measure has bipartisan support.
Senator Paul, meanwhile, submitted a measure that would include protection for banks that work with hemp-growing businesses.
Removing hemp from the federal controlled-substances list (that does not discriminate between marijuana and hemp, and includes hard drugs like cocaine and heroin) would mean that cultivators would no longer need a federal permit, but states’ hemp production programs would remain under the jurisdiction of the federal Agriculture Department.