FRANKFORT, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he wants to legalize hemp as an industrial product and agriculture commodity.
Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner believes that a change in law could have huge implications on the Commonwealth. Where tobacco was once king, hemp may be the future cash crop.
The top Republican in the US Senate is ready to take the stigma away from hemp.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared with Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles to announce he's filing a bill that will take the Commonwealth's pilot industrial hemp program and potentially bring a huge opportunity.
"it will be the hemp farm act of 2018, U.S. Senate Majority Leader McConnell said. “What will it do, first and foremost, is finally legalize hemp, legalize hemp as an agriculture commodity and remove it from the list of controlled substances.”
The plan, if passed would put state Ag Commissioners in charge of regulatory oversight, open up markets across state lines--allowing for shipment even if a pass-through state did not create an industrial hemp policy, and make available federal research grants.
"Whether it will rival tobacco is yet to be seen but one thing I know for certain is due to the farmer-lead research, here in Kentucky, we are the best positioned state in the nation to capture the economic impact of industrial hemp if and when it becomes commercialized,” Quarles said.
One company looking to take advantage of this change would be Sunstrand in Louisville.
"It can be used to make things from non-wovens--to replace fiberglass in a variety of applications--and used as the base materials for items that you use every day,” Adam Block, with Sunstrand, said.
The company's pilot program has turned hemp into home insulation, composites, plastics and animal bedding.
Changing regulation, could be a game changer.
Block said the farmers who grow for Sunstrand have an enormous amount of paperwork to go through as hemp currently stands in Kentucky.
"Recognizing in federal statute the difference between hemp and its illicit cousin we can allow this industry to continue to flourish here in Kentucky,” McConnell said.
Leader McConnell touted bipartisan support for his plan that he says he intends to file when he returns to Washington next week.
He also anticipates meeting with US Attorney General Jeff Sessions to make sure he understands the bill’s intentions. AG Sessions opposes the legalization of marijuana.