Beth Ethier of the Slatest released an article on March 3, 2015 titled Mitch McConnell Wants Hemp in a Farm Near You. Hemp is a member of the cannabis family along with its cousin marijuana. Hemp generally has a minimal amount to THC, which is the active ingredient in medical and recreational marijuana.
McConnell is not pressing for marijuana legalization. He is trying to allow cultivation of hemp in Kentucky under federal laws. The legal status of medical marijuana usage in Kentucky will be discussed below.
The federal government does not differentiate when it classifies all three major cannabis strains as prohibited substances. Cannabis is classified under Schedule I of the Controlled Substance Act, which also includes heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. Schedule I is the most stringent drug classification. There is a federal provision to allow prescribing marijuana components in pill form for medical use.
Hemp is used to make rope, clothes, and many industrial products. Marijuana is used for recreational purposes, as a mood altering alternative to alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical drugs. Its medical uses include treatment for depression, PTSD, and other psychological disorders. Medical marijuana has also been used to prevent epileptic seizures in children. Wikipedia provides some background information on categories of cannabis and its uses.
Ethier’s article points out that McConnell is trying to get the DEA to separate hemp from marijuana under federal laws. With the decline in tobacco cultivation in Kentucky, hemp cultivation could replace the high value tobacco cultivation that has been lost. There are many legitimate uses for hemp that are much more environmentally friendly than the products being replaced.
Because the federal government continues to maintain the dangers of marijuana, the production of hemp is being hampered. North Dakota was the first state to legalize hemp production, but DEA interference in the courts has made it impossible to achieve large scale production of hemp. McConnell’s focus on legalizing hemp production has allowed a test plot of hemp to be planted in Kentucky over DEA legal objections.
Several states and the District of Columbia have totally decriminalized marijuana for all uses. More states have passed laws allowing medicinal use of marijuana. Other states, including Ohio, have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. Growing or selling marijuana is still a felony in Ohio and most other states. Ohio does not provide for the legal use of medical marijuana.
Michigan allows medical marijuana. Indiana is introducing legislation to allow medical marijuana. According to NORML, Kentucky currently has bills introduced in both houses of state government to provide for medical medical marijuana. The provisions include possession of 15 ounces of marijuana and permits growing six mature plants and six immature plants for patients that are certified for treatment with medical marijuana.
As in the case of same-gender marriages, cannabis legislation has languished in Congress and the federal court system. States are taking the lead in key areas where Congress and the courts have failed to act. If Kentucky moves forward on hemp production, with or without DEA approval, it is another step in legalization of marijuana. The Kentucky medical marijuana provisions are among the most liberal if they are passed.
For the Libertarians and Conservatives that want to get government out of the lives of private citizens, legalization of marijuana and same-gender marriages are two areas that can be justified. Having Senator McConnell trying to get the federal statutes changed for hemp will result in speeding up the legalization of all species of cannabis.
God works in mysterious ways.