Hemp brings jobs and more than $16.7 million in sales to Kentucky

Beth Warren, Louisville Courier Journal Published 11:57 a.m. ET May 1, 2018

A report card of sorts grading hemp’s impact on Kentucky showed these scores:

Eighty-one new full-time jobs. More than $16.7 million in gross product sales. And $7.5 million for farmers.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles included these figures from last year in an April 24 letter to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul calling hemp’s economic impact “significant.”

“My goal is to make Kentucky an epicenter for hemp farmers and processors,” Quarles wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained this week by Courier Journal.

He said he wants Kentucky to “have a head start in the race against competitors in other states,” as he anticipates Congress will remove the crop from the list of federally controlled substances. McConnell is pushing for this legislative change to remove a barrier inhibiting the versatile plant some call marijuana’s kissing cousin. This would clear up confusion about whether its products are or aren’t legal.

The push to legalize: Mitch McConnell is fighting hard to legalize hemp

More info: Are you breaking the law when you buy hemp products?

Police have fought the legalization of hemp since 2012, complaining that they can’t easily decipher hemp from marijuana, said Tommy Loving, head of the Kentucky Narcotics Officers’ Association.

McConnell was key to the federal “2014 Farm Bill” that gave states the power to allow industrial hemp and to test the market to see if consumers would buy its products — which range from “superfood” seeds to clothing and cannabidiol or CBD oils used to treat headaches. The Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol — a psychoactive compound better known as THC — was limited to 0.3, a negligible amount that won’t allow for a buzz.

In Kentucky, hemp can only be grown with the approval of state agriculture officials while it remains a controlled substance. Quarles said other states have called for help modeling their program after the one Kentucky uses.

Reporter Beth Warren: bwarren@courier-journal.com; 502-582-7164; Twitter @BethWarrenCJ. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: www.courier-journal.com/bethw.

Hemp vs pot: Can you get high off hemp? More info on marijuana’s ‘kissing cousin’

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