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Politics makes strange bedfellows. And that couldn't be more true than the Republican Congress pushing to legalize hemp prior to losing its majority, with the charge being led by none other than Mitch McConnell.
Hemp is considered a cousin of marijuana because it contains trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive compound associated with marijuana highs. It has been on the federally banned substance list for decades, and therefore anyone that wanted to grow it needed a federal license.
The government has been increasingly generous in recent years issuing licenses, and consequently production has tripled in the past four years. McConnell is hoping to open the floodgates on production. He has almost guaranteed to constituents that he will legalize hemp as an agricultural commodity, and remove it from the federal list of controlled substances.
McConnell plans to weave hemp into the upcoming Farm Act vote, and likely won't face much opposition from Democrats. Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle plan to vote in favor of legalizing hemp, whether because they represent agricultural communities that have been hit hard in years past by the elimination of many subsidies, or because they are big proponents of hemp-derived cannabidoil, or CBD oil, the key ingredient in medicinal marijuana. McConnell sees hemp as the next soybean. In admiring its potential and versatility, he said it's valuable "in terms of food and medicine but also car parts. I mean, it's an extraordinary plant."
Expect to see a lot of federal laws promoting the marijuana industry once the Democrats take control of the House. Rep. Jim McGovern, who will be the new Rules Chair in Congress, signaled that he would like to limit federal interference in states that have legalized marijuana, as well as expand medical cannabis for veterans and loosen the federal restrictions on banks that want to do business in the cannabis industry. It could be quite a year for this budding industry.
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