Mr. President: Legalize Hemp!

This week, I have the honor and pleasure of joining Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer as we meet in Washington, D.C. with an impressive swath of Obama Administration officials — from the White House to the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Energy to the Environmental Protection Agency — to seek their help in securing the federal legalization of industrial hemp.

Think the pairing of this proud progressive and the conservative Comer to be somewhat unusual?  Let me further blow your political assumptions:  We will be joined in our advocacy by the unlikely alliance of GOP Establishment favorite Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Tea Party poster child Senator Rand Paul, and liberal Democratic stalwart Congressman John Yarmuth.

This rare burst of No Labels-style Washington bi-partisanship is merely a reflection of the broad, deep and diverse support for hemp’s legalization among Kentuckians of all political persuasions.  This March, the Kentucky General Assembly overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 50 — sponsored by GOP Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Paul Hornback, and strongly championed by Democratic House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins — that establishes an administrative and law enforcement structure for hemp growers should the crop be legalized at the federal level, and would empower Kentucky to jump to the front of the line and establish itself as the national leader on the crop once federal approval was granted.

How have liberals, conservatives and everyone in between found such common ground? It’s because the case for hemp legalization is so compelling:

  • While support for legalizing hemp’s distant cousin, marijuana, remains controversial (I support legal pot; Comer does not), hemp is not marijuana.  The two plants are quite distinct in the way that they appear physically and are cultivated agriculturally.  Moreover, smoking hemp can’t get you high; it just might make you feel a little stupid that you tried.  Industrial hemp has less than one percent THC, while marijuana ranges from 5 to 20 percent THC content.
  • Legalized industrial hemp production could emerge as a prolific cash crop that could bring hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue to Kentucky, and many billions of dollars to the United States. There are more than 25,000 uses for the crop, including rope, clothing, automotive paneling and door installation — even makeup.
  • Most exciting to me — as a clean energy advocate — is hemp’s application as a clean-burning alternative fuel. Hemp burns with no carbon emissions and produces twice as much ethanol per acre as corn. While bio-fuels critics have raised alarms at the diversion of food products into fuel production — causing spikes in food prices — hemp has no such negative economic side effects. As the U.S. struggles with the dual enormous challenges of climate change and dependence on foreign oil, industrial hemp could become a powerful weapon in America’s energy independence arsenal.

Only one thing stands in the way of this exciting economic and environmental progress: The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) continues to classify hemp as an illegal, controlled substance, regardless of its THC potency.

Accordingly, Comer and I — and our bipartisan federal delegation — will be lobbying Obama Administration officials this week to provide Kentucky a waiver from the federal regulations; or better yet, to encourage the DEA to reclassify industrial hemp as legal, regulated agricultural crop.

But while our lobbying efforts will hopefully produce some progress, the key power is in your hands.  While a majority of Americans now support legalized marijuana — and presumably a much larger majority supports legal hemp — only when you share your support with your elected officials will they feel the political pressure to take action.

Here are three very simple things that you can do — right now, at your computer — to register your support for legalized industrial hemp and pressure Washington to fulfill the people’s will:

  1. Contact your Senators to urge them to co-sponsor and support S. 359, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013. introduced by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY) that would exclude hemp from the definition of marijuana and allow states to legalize and regulate the product.
  2. Contact your Congressman and urge him or her to co-sponsor the companion bill in the House, H.R. 525, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013, introduced by Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY).
  3. Sign the following petition to President Obama, urging his Administration to lift the barriers to legalized hemp:

President Obama: Legalize Hemp!

[signature]

262 signatures

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Latest Signatures
262jacquelyn BishopWhite Plains, NYJul 19, 2014
261George PillingOrmond Beach, FloridaNov 11, 2013
260Robert SasickBellvue, ColoradoJul 24, 2013
259Charles KellyLexington, KYJul 10, 2013
258Jacqueline CavenderSyracuse, New YorkJun 17, 2013
257Diana FuentesWashington, DCJun 01, 2013
256Richard OzarkSaginaw, MichiganMay 26, 2013
255William BrammellLexington, KYMay 25, 2013
254Eric OstertagLexington, KentuckyMay 22, 2013
253william rosenbergbaltimore, marylandMay 18, 2013
252russell newtonroseville, MinnesotaMay 18, 2013
251Josie FischerSpring Hill, FlMay 18, 2013
250Denise HoustonMay 18, 2013
249megan guppyseattle, WashingtonMay 15, 2013
248Angie TidwellMcdonough, GAMay 15, 2013
247Pam GrayJacksonville, FLMay 15, 2013
246Laurie RotichRochester , New YorkMay 15, 2013
245Yogi RaoCumming, GAMay 15, 2013
244David WilliamsCamarillo, CaliforniaMay 13, 2013
243Ariana BranchDetroit, MichiganMay 13, 2013
242JIm StammSan Jose , Ca. May 13, 2013
241JAMES STRIEGELWeed, CaliforniaMay 13, 2013
240Aracely CoronadoPhiladelphia, PAMay 13, 2013
239joel gilbertson-whitepittsburgh, PennsylvaniaMay 12, 2013
238Lori FaffColorado Springs, COMay 11, 2013
237Vance Grossieca.May 11, 2013
236LeeAnn SchappeSaratoga Springs, New YorkMay 11, 2013
235Nick LoseMay 11, 2013
234David LandskovArlington, MassachusettsMay 11, 2013
233Allan AlsipFrankfort, KYMay 10, 2013
232Rosie SmickVancouver, WashingtonMay 10, 2013
231Michael GuillaumTucson, ArizonaMay 10, 2013
230Nalia NicholsMay 10, 2013
229Ivan Bumgarnerrochester, NYMay 10, 2013
228Dean HarrimanAtwater, OhioMay 10, 2013
227Stephanie Lana RamapriyanMalibu, CAMay 10, 2013
226Marilyn CluteBothell, WAMay 10, 2013
225PHILIP ILCZYSZYNArvada, ColoradoMay 10, 2013
224Curtis CupplesNaples, FLMay 10, 2013
223Norman MillerCosta Mesa, CAMay 10, 2013
222Daniel BruenNyack, New YorkMay 10, 2013
221Kathy HarpFrankfort, KYMay 10, 2013
220Richard DeCampLexington, KentuckyMay 09, 2013
219Holly Harris VonLuehrteLexington, KYMay 09, 2013
218Sally O'BoyleLexington, KYMay 09, 2013
217Shauna HareOttumwa, IowaMay 09, 2013
216Amber KiddRichmond, KYMay 09, 2013
215Hemp HurdPine Bluff, AR.May 08, 2013
214rich givanlou, kyMay 08, 2013
213Lamin SwannLexington, KYMay 08, 2013

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