Will Brownlow, who has been farming in southeast Kentucky for close to three decades, says he first planted 10 acres of hemp in 2016 for the “novelty factor.” This year, he planted 40, and next year he plans to cover 60 to 80 acres (25 to 32 hectares) of the 340 acres he farms in hemp.
And farmers like Brownlow are likely to continue planting more of it, as US Congress is expected to pass the 2018 Farm Bill with a provision that would define industrial hemp a regular agricultural crop, clarifying the legal status of extracts and allowing hemp growers to buy federally-subsidized crop insurance. Hemp’s inclusion in the Farm Bill was sponsored by the most powerful US senator, Mitch McConnell, the chamber’s majority leader.
The US defines industrial hemp as cannabis sativa plants containing 0.3% or less THC. Essentially, it’s marijuana that won’t get you high.
In 1970, the Controlled Substances Act lumped hemp along with marijuana as a Schedule I substance, with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” The crop was illegal for anyone without a permit to grow until the 2014 Farm Bill opened up industrial hemp cultivation to state-controlled pilot programs. [Read more at Quartz]