Earlier this week, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) held a press conference in Frankfort, Kentucky to announce his plans for legislation that would legalize hemp as an agricultural commodity on the federal level and remove it from the list of controlled substances: The Hemp Farming Act of 2018.

“Hemp has played a foundational role in Kentucky’s agricultural heritage, and I believe that it can be an important part of our future,” said McConnell, who was instrumental in getting approval for state-level hemp pilot programs in the 2014 Farm Bill – programs that are now up and running in more than half the state in the U.S. “I am grateful to join our Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles in this effort. He and his predecessor, Jamie Comer, have been real champions for the research and development of industrial hemp in the Commonwealth. The work of Commissioner Quarles here in Kentucky has become a nationwide example for the right way to cultivate hemp. I am proud to stand here with him today, because I believe that we are ready to take the next step and build upon the successes we’ve seen with Kentucky’s hemp pilot program.”

Of course, not everyone is happy with the reemergence of hemp as a legal commodity. “Our problem is the hemp plant is identical in appearance to a marijuana plant,” Tommy Loving, head of the Kentucky Narcotic Officers’ Association, told a Courier Journal reporter. In other words, legal hemp farms thwart law enforcement efforts to find large, illegal marijuana farms. The problem is, there are several ways to tell the plants apart by appearance alone.

“Marijuana looks contrastingly different from hemp. When you observe their leaves, marijuana’s shape tends to either be broad leafed, a tight bud, or look like a nugget with orange hairs,” according to MinistryofHemp.com. “Hemp, on the other hand, has skinnier leaves that’s concentrated at the top. Few branches or leaves exist below the top part of the plant. When you observe the plants from afar, marijuana looks like a short fat bush. Hemp is typically skinnier and taller (up to 20 ft). At times, it almost looks like long ditchweed. Hemp was actually found to grow among weeds in Nebraska. In general, when you compare a marijuana farm with those of industrial hemp, you’ll notice that they are clearly very different from one another.”

“The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 will help Kentucky enhance its position as the leading state on hemp production,” McConnell’s office said in a statement. “It builds upon the success we have seen through the hemp pilot programs by allowing states to be the primary regulators of hemp, if the U.S. Department of Agriculture approves their implementation plan. This legislation also will remove the federal barriers in place that have stifled the industry, which will help expand the domestic production of hemp. It will also give hemp researchers the chance to apply for competitive federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture – allowing them to continue their impressive work with the support of federal research dollars.”

There was zero reason to prohibit industrial hemp – something the U.S. Government itself was praising as late as the 1940s (video below) – in the first place, and hopefully that grave error will be rectified by the federal government this year.