In this Aug. 1, 2014 photo, Tony L. Brannon, Murray State University’s agriculture dean, stands for a photo near a hemp crop at the school’s research farm in Murray, Ky. Researchers and farmers are producing the state’s first legal hemp crop in generations. Hemp has turned into a political cause in the Bluegrass state. (AP Photo/Bruce Schreiner) (The Associated Press)
MURRAY, Ky. – Call it a homecoming for hemp: Marijuana’s non-intoxicating cousin is undergoing a rebirth in a state at the forefront of efforts to reclaim it as a mainstream crop.
Researchers and farmers are producing the first legal hemp crop in generations in Kentucky, where hemp has turned into a political cause decades after it was banned by the federal government. Republican U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul advocate for it, as does state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, a Republican who is running for governor next year.
The comeback is strictly small scale. Experimental hemp plots more closely resemble the size of large family gardens.
Statewide plantings totaled about 15 acres from the Appalachian foothills in eastern Kentucky to the broad stretches of farmland in the far west, said Adam Watson, the Kentucky Agriculture Department’s hemp program coordinator.
The crop’s reintroduction was delayed in the spring when imported hemp seeds were detained by U.S. customs officials. The state’s Agriculture Department then sued the federal government and dropped the case Friday after reaching an agreement on importing the seeks into Kentucky. The seeds were released after federal drug officials approved a permit.