U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, and Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles announced the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, which McConnell plans to introduce. | Courtesy McConnell’s office

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced a plan to introduce federal legislation to legalize hemp as an agricultural commodity.

McConnell, who made the announcement Monday in Frankfort with Kentucky Agricultural Commissioner Ryan Quarles, said the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 would remove hemp from the list of controlled substances and legalize hemp as an agricultural commodity.

McConnell said he plans to introduce the bill in the Senate, with Senator Rand Paul and a bipartisan group of members.

“Here in Kentucky, we have built the best Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program in the country and have established a model for how other states can do the same with buy-in from growers, processors, and law enforcement,” Commissioner Quarles said.

Quarles said his department approved growers to produce up to 12,000 acres of industrial hemp for research purposes.

The state now has 57 processors, according to Quarles, who said he hopes to make the state the country’s leading hemp producer.

McConnell said hemp’s potential reminds him of tobacco, which used to be Kentucky’s cash crop.

“We are all so optimistic hemp can at some point become what burley was in Kentucky’s past,” McConnell said. “Hemp has played a foundational role in Kentucky’s agricultural heritage, and I believe that it can be an important part of our future.”

The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 will also remove other barriers that have stifled the industry and create federal grants for research, McConnell said.

States would regulate the crops, McConnell said.

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