Hemp, which has been cultivated for thousands of years, is a resilient and nutrient-rich plant that contributes to the health of the soil and grows well in drought-prone climates.
Hemp has been grown for centuries and has a range of uses, including as clothes, paper, rope, food, and even as an industrial building block.
McConnell has been an advocate of hemp cultivation for at least four years.
Even in states with legal recreational weed, hemp's legal status is often muddy.
The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 would legalize hemp by removing it entirely from the federal controlled substances list. McConnell helped push for the provision that allows state agriculture departments to designate hemp projects for research and development.
"Hemp has played a foundational role in Kentucky's agricultural heritage, and I believe that it can be an important part of our future", McConnell said at a conference in Frankfort, Kentucky, accompanied by the state Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles.
"The goal of this new bill, should it become law, is to simply remove the roadblocks altogether", McConnell said. And in February 2018, researchers were eyeing Rapho Township, Lancaster County as another possible site for industrial hemp research.
"Ultimately, the designation of industrial hemp as a controlled substance is a barrier to the farmers who wish to see this crop find an appropriate home in the marketplace", said Redding's spokesman, Casey Smith.
There is already a production facility run by GenCanna on the Hemp Research Campus in Winchester, Kentucky, which is a re-purposed former tobacco research facility. "I want to thank Leader McConnell for introducing this legislation which allows us to harness the economic viability of this crop and presents the best opportunity to put hemp on a path to commercialization".
Furnish said hemp has the potential to rival or surpass what tobacco production once meant to Kentucky.
He said hemp is helping wean his business off of tobacco as profits from Kentucky's former cash crop dwindle.
McConnell added that he'd discuss the bill with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a noted cannabis opponent. The Trump administration has taken a tougher stance on marijuana. It builds upon the success we have seen through the hemp pilot programs by allowing states to be the primary regulators of hemp if the U.S. Department of Agriculture approves their implementation plan.