Politics

Newsweek reporter Jessica Firger recently wrote a story in which she described the challenges for Kentucky farmers growing the plant.

On Tuesday, Firger discussed with Kentucky Public Radio how the state’s fledgling hemp industry is providing an alternative for down-and-out tobacco farmers in the state.

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In “The Great Kentucky Hemp Experiment,” Firger writes that hemp is just a few genetic tweaks away from marijuana and also smells like its illicit cousin when it flowers.

During her reporting at a hemp farm near Lexington, farmers turned to hemp after struggling to grow and sell tobacco and ornamental flowers, Firger said.

“A lot of farmers in the state and lawmakers are really hopeful that growing hemp is really going to change things,” she told Kentucky Public Radio.

Kentucky is one of several states that has enacted a hemp pilot program that allows a limited number of acres to be cultivated for industrial hemp.

Bringing hemp to Kentucky has been a pet project of Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who has gotten support from U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, among others.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.