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Hemp has been stigmatized for a long time thanks to its close relation with cannabis. But public opinion and laws have relaxed restrictions against the crop, and created a potential opportunity for investment in Kentucky’s nascent industry.
Along with marijuana, hemp was criminalized by 1937’s Marijuana Tax Act. The restriction on hemp was lifted briefly during World War II so the crop could be used to make uniforms and rope, but after the war hemp once again became illegal. The plant has less of the psychoactive ingredient THC than marijuana does.
Passage of the 2014 Farm Bill signaled a change in attitudes toward the crop by creating chances for organizations to grow and research it. The University of Louisville capitalized on the opportunity, launching research in 2016 to explore hemp as a biofuel.
With support from U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the U.S. effectively legalized the crop with the 2018 Farm Bill. Since then, historic sites have pledged to raise awareness about hemp and Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said crop sales rose by $41 million in 2018 — more than three and a half times higher than the year before.
On WFPL’s In Conversation this week, we look at Kentucky’s history with hemp and what the crop’s future potential could be. Our guests include:
- Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles
- Kentucky Hemp Heritage Alliance Founder Alyssa Erickson
Listen to In Conversation live on 89.3 WFPL Friday at 11 a.m. or follow along with our live tweets at @WFPLnews. Call with your questions or comments at 502-814-TALK or tweet us with the hashtag #WFPLconversation. We’re also on Facebook.