McConnell hopeful for hemp future

Sen. Mitch McConnell visited Murray State’s Equine Instructional Facility Tuesday to discuss the future of industrial hemp growth in Kentucky.

With only six weeks left in the growing season, agricultural researchers are anxious to get hemp seeds planted in the state, but they are struggling with hurdles in place by the Drug Enforcement Administration. If the seeds are not planted, valid research will be impossible this year.

McConnell said he understood the time constraints, and said his environmental legislative assistant is focused on this.

Tony Brannon, the dean of the Hutson School of Agriculture, said despite full support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, cannabis and hemp seeds are regulated by the Controlled Substances Act.

The Farm Bill, which was signed by President Barack Obama Feb. 7 of this year, allows hemp growth for research – a section added by McConnell.

This was a large stride forward for the industry since September, when Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway stated that hemp simply was not legal on the federal level at that time.

On March 7, Conway released an advisory opinion on possible industrial hemp changes.

“Recent research has suggested that hemp might be an economically viable product in the state if the federal restrictions are lifted,” Conway said.

So far, efforts to lift those restrictions have ended in Congress.

MSU research farmers are still in the process of importing seeds. They are contacting other universities with potential access to the crop and research experts from Canada.

 

Story by Amanda Grau, Staff writer