The public’s massive distrust of the GOP doesn’t end at the White House doors; rather, it extends to the U.S. Capitol, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell only managing an approval rating of about 18 percent among voters in his home state of Kentucky.
In the face of this massive tide of disapproval, he revealed on Monday that he would be introducing a bill in the U.S. Senate to remove a ban on hemp, which would mean that it would be up to states to establish their own regulations covering the plant.
Hemp is, of course, a plant distinct from marijuana/cannabis, although the two are related and both are controlled substances.
The fate of cannabis has been one of the hot button political issues in recent years, with numerous states having moved to legalize it for recreational use, medical use, or both.
The debate over what to do with cannabis isn’t just one over letting people engage in activities associated with the product; it’s also relevant because of the sheer volume of American prison inmates who have been incarcerated for drug related offenses. The United States, of course, carried on with a “War on Drugs” for some time that current Attorney General Jeff Sessions has moved to resuscitate through such means as empowering the government to prosecute cannabis-related cases in states where the plant has been made legal.
The Motley Fool reported that in the face of this attitude on the part of Sessions’ Justice Department, Congress included a provision in the spending bill that the president recently signed into law that prohibits government funds from being used to prosecute medical marijuana businesses. The bill also continued “existing protections for industrial hemp research.”
In addition, the outlet notes that:
‘A group of nearly five dozen bipartisan lawmakers wrote a letter to the House Appropriations Committee requesting that new, broader provisions be included in the 2019 federal budget that protect all marijuana businesses, not just medical ones, from federal prosecution as long as they’re complying with state-passed cannabis laws.”
This context then, is that from which the Senate Majority Leader’s announcement of a bill to lift federal restrictions on hemp comes. He is hardly making dramatic moves here or going out on a limb; he’s simply finally getting around to something that should no doubt have been done a long time ago.
As Kentucky CBS affiliate WKYT reported of McConnell’s proposal:
‘The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 would legalize hemp, designating it an agricultural commodity while removing it from the federal list of controlled substances, according to a press release sent out by McConnell’s office.’
The bill would also allow hemp researchers to apply for grants from the Department of Agriculture.
McConnell made his announcement alongside Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner, Republican Ryan Quarles at the the US Hemp Roundtable, and his bill is being cosponsored by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY).
The announcement comes as Congress continues to limp along after having finally gotten around to passing something substantive recently in the form of last year’s tax reform package and the aforementioned spending bill, which the president had threatened to veto.
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