Kentucky’s hemp industry saw more than $16.7 million in gross product sales last year, which led to $7.5 million for hemp farmers and created 81 new full-time jobs, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports. The figures, outlined in a letter by state Agricultural Commissioner Ryan Quarles to Kentucky’s Senators, further bolster Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s legislative push to legalize hemp throughout the U.S.
In the letter, Quarles said his goal is to make the state “an epicenter for hemp farmers and processors” and that Kentucky will “have a head start” in the hemp sector when Congress finally removes the crop from the Controlled Substances Act – which McConnell’s bill would achieve.
According to the report, the Kentucky Narcotic Officers’ Association opposes hemp legalization. Tommy Loving, the head of the organization, told the Courier-Journal that law enforcement officers cannot easily determine the difference between cannabis plants containing less than 0.3 percent THC – which are defined as hemp – and plants above that threshold which are illegal under both Kentucky and federal law.
The 2014 federal Farm Bill – backed by McConnell – allows states to conduct pilot programs for industrial hemp cultivation and under those programs farms must register with their state. So far, 34 states have implemented such programs.