States have started cultivating a love for cannabis, along with the tax revenue it brings in. The outsider is finally turning into an insider while hemp, its shy country cousin, stands forlornly in the corner. Hemp seems to have no friends in high places, except … Mitch McConnell, Republican from Kentucky.
The Senate Majority Leader plans to introduce a bill that would remove hemp from the federal list of controlled substances, effectively legalizing hemp as a crop. It would allow states to regulate their own undulating fields of green.
McConnell has been a big friend to hemp since at least 2014, when he managed to slip a provision into the Farm Bill that made some hemp production and research legal, allowing states to start pilot projects. Now we are seeing a bit of a hemp boomlet — the acres growing hemp doubled from 2016 to 2017, according to advocates, though there weren’t many acres to begin with.
Hemp cultivation hasn’t ridden the coattails of legalized pot. Farmers of sober hemp and high-inducing cannabis had a messy breakup after pot farmers realized that hemp pollen was floating over and killing their plants’ buzz, according to Willamette Week.
McConnell’s views on pot? Not as dangerous as heroin, but still pretty scary.
You shouldn’t believe all the hype about hemp being the sustainable wonder crop that will save the planet. But legalizing it would be good for the environment. To generalize, it takes less land and water but more energy to make a hemp shirt compared to a cotton one. But the environmental effects of farming depend on the context.
Working hard to save water is necessary in a drought but dumb in places where it rains every other day. Hemp really is sustainable in that it provides farmers with an option. When farmers have more options, they are more likely to find a profitable crop that fits their needs. McConnell’s bill would let a few farmers replace cotton or corn with a crop that, in their particular ecological setting, grows like (ahem) a weed, and lowers their farms’ environmental footprint.