Kentucky’s state Senate Agriculture Committee voted unanimously on Monday to approve legislation that could pave the way for the creation of a legal hemp industry in the state, following testimony from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who claimed to be wearing a hemp shirt.
The proposed bill — which will now be considered by the full state senate — would establish a process for Kentucky farmers to begin growing hemp, but only if the federal government first passes a measure to remove the crop from a list of illegal drugs. Hemp is currently listed alongside its more potent cousin, marijuana, as a Schedule I controlled substance. Other Schedule I drugs include heroin and LSD.
During testimony recorded by the Louisville Courier-Journal on Monday, Paul claimed to be wearing a “hemp shirt” that he had been forced to buy in Canada due to an ongoing prohibition on the plant. He was one of several lawmakers to testify.
“It’s a crop that’s legal everywhere else in the world except the United States,” Paul said, questioning why the United States was still forcefully neglecting a potential high-performing industry.
The push to legalize hemp production in Kentucky has a number of high-profile supporters. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) came out in favor of the campaign last month, joining Paul, half of the state’s six-member congressional delegation and a number of state lawmakers.
According to a Hemp Industries Association report cited by Bloomberg last month, U.S. retail sales of products with imported hemp were valued at more than $452 million in 2011.