Mitch McConnell’s Love Affair with Hemp

Mitch McConnell’s Love Affair with Hemp

James Higdon, author of "The Cornbread Mafia: A Homegrown Syndicate’s Code of Silence and the Biggest Marijuana Bust in American History," explores how Mitch McConnell became the highest-ranking public official advocating for hemp legalization, both in his home state of Kentucky and federally. McConnell co-sponsored the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015 which would remove hemp from the list of drugs regulated by the Controlled Substances Act. McConnell's interest in hemp legalization began with a nudge from Rand Paul, Kentucky's junior senator.

As McConnell explored the issue, he realized not only the economic and agricultural promise of the crop, but how unfounded (delusional, even) fears of hemp legalization facilitating marijuana production are. While the crops are closely related, hemp depends on the fertilization of the female flower by the male plant. Marijuana, meanwhile, is the unfertilized flower of the cannabis plant. Fertilization by the male plant is a major concern of marijuana growers, as pollination causes the flower to stop producing THC-rich resin. This means that a hemp field would, in fact, be one of the worst places possible to locate a marijuana operation.

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