Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul Push Legalizing Hemp Growth

Forget legalizing pot: Two of the most powerful Republicans in the Senate believe there’s a much stronger chance to legalize growing hemp in the U.S., opening up an entirely new market for crops, health food, oil, shirts, towels and even dog toys.

Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul and Rep. Thomas Massie are pushing legislation in both chambers of Congress that would remove the less-potent member of the cannabis family from the federal list of controlled substances, allowing its return to America’s farmland after more than 40 years.

It’s a states’ rights and economic growth issue, the Republican lawmakers argue. Legalizing hemp would create jobs.

“People used to downplay the number of jobs industrial hemp might create and say, ‘Well it’s a few thousand jobs and a couple million in commerce,’” Massie said. But all told, legalizing the crop has the potential to create 10 times as many jobs “as the Keystone XL pipeline will create 10 years from now.”

Hemp legalization legislation has been considered in Congress since 2005, when then-Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) pushed the issue. But the current bills have champions in positions of power, including the Senate majority leader and a potential White House contender.

They also have bipartisan support.

The Industrial Hemp Farming Act, introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on Jan. 8 with McConnell, Paul and Oregon’s other Democratic senator, Jeff Merkley, as co-sponsors, now awaits action in the Judiciary Committee. The companion bill Massie introduced in the House on Jan. 26 is before the Energy and Commerce Committee and has 50 bipartisan co-sponsors.

Given the focus on jobs and McConnell’s support, “there is a really good chance of passing [legalization legislation]this year,” Massie said. “[McConnell’s] promotion to majority leader … is important to this effort.”

– Read the entire article at Politico.