“Maybe, just maybe, hemp could be a really big deal sometime in the future,” McConnell says
An attendee stops at the Hemp Magazine booth at the Southern Hemp Expo in Franklin, Tenn., on Sept. 7, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Sen. Mitch McConnell saw a potential replacement for tobacco in 2014, as the federal program to buy out tobacco farmers was ending. McConnell got provisions into a farm bill allowing states to license and monitor hemp production. The Kentucky Republican, now as majority leader, followed through in 2018, using another farm bill to take hemp off the controlled substances list.
Kentucky in 2019 is one of the leading hemp producers. Vote Hemp, an industry advocacy organization, says the state has licensed an estimated 60,000 acres for production. That’s still a fraction of the 58 million acres of tobacco the Agriculture Department forecast Kentucky would harvest in 2019, but it’s almost 12 percent of the Vote Hemp’s estimate of the U.S. acreage licensed to hemp.