GenCanna, McConnell celebrate hemp’s legal status
Published 9:43 am Wednesday, April 24, 2019
GenCanna officials staged a thunderous welcome for U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell Tuesday as part of a celebration of the legalization of industrial hemp.
“Kentucky has come a long way,” Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said. “We are first in the country instead of last.”
In the last couple years, hemp research has become a new industry in Kentucky, anticipating a day when hemp would be legalized again. Hemp is related to and looks similar to marijuana, but lacks the substance that produces the high.
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In 2018, hemp was removed from the federal illegal substances list and placed under the authority of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a move McConnell helped orchestrate. President Donald Trump signed the farm bill, which included legalizing hemp, in December 2018.
“Hemp in Kentucky is economic development,” Quarles said, citing 450 jobs across the state and 1,000 farms currently growing hemp.
“Five years ago, we grew out first hemp in Kentucky,” GenCanna President Steve Bevan said. “Look at how far we’ve come. It’s an exciting time to be in the hemp industry in Kentucky.”
McConnell said the introduction of hemp to Kentucky farmers is another move away from tobacco. In his first term, McConnell said, 119 of Kentucky’s 120 counties grew tobacco. Today, 99 counties are growing hemp.
“Now we’ve come full sweep from tobacco to hemp,” he said. “I hope hemp will be for us someday what tobacco was at its peak.”
Kentucky was a center for hemp production until the middle of the 20th century, when it fell out of favor and hemp became illegal.
“Kentucky is making a hemp comeback thanks to the tireless work of Senator McConnell,” GenCanna CEO Matty Mangone-Miranda said. “His work to make hemp legal has opened up an entire new industry in the United States and Kentucky is poised to lead the way.”
While initially prized for making rope, hemp is being developed into a number of uses.
“Now this fabulous company focuses on CBD, knows it has health potential,” McConnell said. “The stalks can end up in your car dashboard. This is an extraordinarily diverse crop.”
GenCanna, based in Winchester, processes hemp and partners with hemp farmers. It operates a research campus on Colby Road.