Articles, Blog

How a Pair of Kentucky Pols Are About to Legalize Hemp

On nights that Congress is in session, Rep. James Comer, a farmer from Kentucky, lays down on a fold-up mattress in his office on the fifth floor of the Longworth building and hits the lights by 10:30. Before he does, he reaches for a small bottle of CBD oil (made from Kentucky hemp) and squeezes a couple of drops onto his tongue.

“If I miss a night or two and don’t take it, my joints hurt really bad, especially in my hands in the morning,” Comer, a dedicated recreational golfer, told me. “But when I take it, I don’t have any joint pain.”

For those unfamiliar with the federal government’s drug laws, it is worth pointing out that the Drug Enforcement Administration considers the substance Comer ingests each night to be as dangerous as heroin. So why would a sitting congressman, even one from a relatively safe Republican district, admit to a reporter that he takes an illegal drug … on government property?

The answer gets at the messy and fast-evolving terrain of marijuana drug policy and enforcement in the United States and the continuing standoff between the 46 states where CBD is legal and a federal government that has steadfastly resisted liberalization drug laws that date to Richard Nixon’s first term. Comer’s home state is not one that has legalized medical marijuana, but the former state agriculture commissioner has a long history advocating for the legalization of hemp, marijuana’s non-psychoactive sister plant, which he considers a potentially lucrative replacement crop for farmers who once made their money off tobacco. And he’s not the only legislator from Kentucky who thinks that.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has backed the legalization of hemp since 2013, even going so far as to call in the head of the DEA for a face-to-face meeting when it tried to shut down a pilot hemp-growing program he had helped set up in Kentucky. Now, Comer, who was the state’s agriculture commissioner at the time, and McConnell are leading efforts to remove hemp from the government’s list of most addictive drugs, known as Schedule 1 controlled substances as part of the pending farm bill. Next to the fierce debate over whether to tie work requirements to food stamps, the so-called “descheduling” of hemp just might be the most controversial aspect of the massive spending bill.

The DEA and a handful of conservative legislators might be anxious about legalizing hemp, but because McConnell continues to signal his strong support, Republicans have kept their heads down. “There may be some real anti-hemp people in the House, but we didn’t have much problem getting the pilot programs through the last farm bill,” Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota told me. “Mitch McConnell is a lot of things, but one of the things he’s best at is engineering legislation. … He’s the world’s greatest tightrope walker.” It’s not hard to see how hemp could be legal before Election Day.

Meanwhile, both of Oregon’s Democratic senators are strong proponents of the measure. “It’s a big step forward because it says hemp can be treated as any other agricultural commodity, and that’s very different than the way it’s been,” Oregon Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley told me. Hemp advocate Eric Steenstra, who co-founded Vote Hemp in 2000, is equally optimistic: “I feel pretty good that they’re going to get it done,” he told me.

As radical as the move by Congress would be, the public has already legitimized it. Hemp products like CBD, which is used to treat everything from seizures to digestive problems and sleeplessness, have moved the plant from the hippy fringe into the American mainstream, even in a deep-red district like Kentucky’s First, which President Donald Trump won by a 48.5-point margin. When Comer travels home, the pharmacists come up to him, he told me. “They say, ‘You know, we sell hemp, the CBD oil, and we can’t keep it on the shelf,’” Comer said. “I’ve had pharmacists tell me that they take it.”

Full Article by: Politico

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *