LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - It was banned for more than 40 years, but soon hemp will be grown in Kentucky once more. A state law passed last year plus recent federal legislation paved the way for the crop's return.
It's making a comeback after leaving the Bluegrass in 1970. Senators say industrial hemp has been a long-time coming, something they say will bring more jobs and industry back. On Monday, that big announcement was made across eastern Kentucky, starting in Knott County.
"Kentucky is comfortable with the idea of trying to develop this new product. This new agriculture product that could help bring us jobs and opportunities across the state," said U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, a republican for Kentucky.
But it hasn't been an easy road for the lawmakers wanting to make it a reality, once again, in Kentucky. They're trying to get over the hump of hemp coming from cannabis, which is the same plant as marijuana.
"Selling the idea, getting over the hump of what industrial hemp really is, and more importantly what it is not was an interesting political challenge," said Sen. McConnell.
"We are still moving this issue forward, and I think we have a great chance," said U.S. Senator Rand Paul, another republican for Kentucky.
U.S. Senators McConnell and Paul along with Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer got those in Washington interested with the federal Farm Bill, signed by President Obama on February 7. They set up pilot projects for research to establish that there is a market here for industrial hemp.
"This was I think passed by 80% or 90% of the legislature. Republicans and democrats worked together on this," said Sen. Paul. "You think we hate each other, and we never work together. We did work together on hemp."
The next step is production for commercial purposes, and state leaders plan to tackle that once the pilot project is in the ground.
Hemp fibers can be used to make paper, construction materials, carpeting, and clothing. Seeds are used to make industrial oils, medicines, and food. And hemp can also be used in bio-fuels.