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:
- 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.
- 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).
- Sign the following petition to President Obama, urging his Administration to lift the barriers to legalized hemp:
President Obama: Legalize Hemp!Read the petition
|262||jacquelyn Bishop||White Plains, NY||Jul 19, 2014|
|261||George Pilling||Ormond Beach, Florida||Nov 11, 2013|
|260||Robert Sasick||Bellvue, Colorado||Jul 24, 2013|
|259||Charles Kelly||Lexington, KY||Jul 10, 2013|
|258||Jacqueline Cavender||Syracuse, New York||Jun 17, 2013|
|257||Diana Fuentes||Washington, DC||Jun 01, 2013|
|256||Richard Ozark||Saginaw, Michigan||May 26, 2013|
|255||William Brammell||Lexington, KY||May 25, 2013|
|254||Eric Ostertag||Lexington, Kentucky||May 22, 2013|
|253||william rosenberg||baltimore, maryland||May 18, 2013|
|252||russell newton||roseville, Minnesota||May 18, 2013|
|251||Josie Fischer||Spring Hill, Fl||May 18, 2013|
|250||Denise Houston||May 18, 2013|
|249||megan guppy||seattle, Washington||May 15, 2013|
|248||Angie Tidwell||Mcdonough, GA||May 15, 2013|
|247||Pam Gray||Jacksonville, FL||May 15, 2013|
|246||Laurie Rotich||Rochester , New York||May 15, 2013|
|245||Yogi Rao||Cumming, GA||May 15, 2013|
|244||David Williams||Camarillo, California||May 13, 2013|
|243||Ariana Branch||Detroit, Michigan||May 13, 2013|
|242||JIm Stamm||San Jose , Ca.||May 13, 2013|
|241||JAMES STRIEGEL||Weed, California||May 13, 2013|
|240||Aracely Coronado||Philadelphia, PA||May 13, 2013|
|239||joel gilbertson-white||pittsburgh, Pennsylvania||May 12, 2013|
|238||Lori Faff||Colorado Springs, CO||May 11, 2013|
|237||Vance Grossie||ca.||May 11, 2013|
|236||LeeAnn Schappe||Saratoga Springs, New York||May 11, 2013|
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|234||David Landskov||Arlington, Massachusetts||May 11, 2013|
|233||Allan Alsip||Frankfort, KY||May 10, 2013|
|232||Rosie Smick||Vancouver, Washington||May 10, 2013|
|231||Michael Guillaum||Tucson, Arizona||May 10, 2013|
|230||Nalia Nichols||May 10, 2013|
|229||Ivan Bumgarner||rochester, NY||May 10, 2013|
|228||Dean Harriman||Atwater, Ohio||May 10, 2013|
|227||Stephanie Lana Ramapriyan||Malibu, CA||May 10, 2013|
|226||Marilyn Clute||Bothell, WA||May 10, 2013|
|225||PHILIP ILCZYSZYN||Arvada, Colorado||May 10, 2013|
|224||Curtis Cupples||Naples, FL||May 10, 2013|
|223||Norman Miller||Costa Mesa, CA||May 10, 2013|
|222||Daniel Bruen||Nyack, New York||May 10, 2013|
|221||Kathy Harp||Frankfort, KY||May 10, 2013|
|220||Richard DeCamp||Lexington, Kentucky||May 09, 2013|
|219||Holly Harris VonLuehrte||Lexington, KY||May 09, 2013|
|218||Sally O'Boyle||Lexington, KY||May 09, 2013|
|217||Shauna Hare||Ottumwa, Iowa||May 09, 2013|
|216||Amber Kidd||Richmond, KY||May 09, 2013|
|215||Hemp Hurd||Pine Bluff, AR.||May 08, 2013|
|214||rich givan||lou, ky||May 08, 2013|
|213||Lamin Swann||Lexington, KY||May 08, 2013|