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McConnell backs hemp bill

GOP leader supports legalization after meeting with Rand Paul.

Lawmakers in Kentucky hoping to cash in on the state‚??s cash crop by legalizing the farming of industrial hemp got a significant boost of support from one of the most powerful Republicans in Washington, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

‚??I am convinced that allowing its production will be a positive development for Kentucky‚??s farm families and economy,‚?Ě McConnell said.

‚??The utilization of hemp to produce everything from clothing to paper is real and if there is a capacity to center a new domestic industry in Kentucky that will create jobs in these difficult economic times that sounds like a good thing to me,‚?Ě McConnell said.

McConnell declared his support after meeting with fellow Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who is sponsoring legislation to lift the federal ban on hemp production, as well as the state‚??s Agriculture Commissioner, James Comer, who is backing an initiative in the state legislature‚??s to allow its production.

‚??Commissioner Comer has assured me that his office is committed to pursuing industrialized hemp production in a way that does not compromise Kentucky law enforcement‚??s marijuana eradication efforts or in any way promote illegal drug use,‚?Ě McConnell said.

With McConnell‚??s support, the chances are better that freshman Paul‚??s bill will be taken up for consideration in Congress this session. Kentucky advocates for legalizing hemp say that without federal support, the state initiative is moot.

Prior to the Civil War, hemp production was legal in Kentucky and grown to manufacture rope and other fabrics. Although it‚??s not illegal, the plant continues to grow wild throughout the state‚??s forests. It is also cultivated illegally and police confiscate nearly $1 billion worth of the weed yearly.

The difference between hemp grown to produce materials and marijuana for drug consumption is the level of THC in each plant ‚?? about one percent for hemp and upwards of 15 percent for marijuana.

Reviving the industry could boost the state‚??s faltering economy, where unemployment continues to hover above eight percent, supporters said.

Written By

Audrey Hudson is an award-winning investigative journalist whose enterprise reporting has sparked numerous congressional investigations that led to laws signed by Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. She won the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi award for Public Service in 2009 for her report on dangerous drug experiments by the federal government on war veterans, which prompted internal investigations and needed reforms within the Veterans Affairs Department. The report also captured first place for investigative reporting by the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and was a finalist of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences Webby Awards for news and politics. Her breaking stories have been picked up and followed by major news publications and periodicals, including Readers Digest, Washington Monthly, and The Weekly Standard, as well as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Washington Post. With nearly 20 years of experience in Washington as a newspaper reporter and as a Capitol Hill staffer for Western lawmakers, she will now lead Human Events‚?? coverage of energy and environmental issues. A native of Kentucky, Mrs. Hudson has worked inside the Beltway for nearly two decades -- on Capitol Hill as a Senate and House spokeswoman, and most recently at The Washington Times covering Congress, Homeland Security, and the Supreme Court. Audrey‚??s email is AHudson@EaglePub.Co