Kentucky’s two U.S. Senators don’t always pull the GOP in the same direction. But Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul are joining forces on a modest but important effort — getting the federal government out of hemp regulation. Now is a good time to pass a bill moving laws around hemp cultivation down to the state level.
If you’re of a certain age, you may have spent time in middle school or high school listening to classmates invoke George Washington in their case for legalizing hemp. To be sure, the agricultural product, which bears a close similarity to marijuana, has been a part of American farming since the beginning — especially in early states like Kentucky.
“Hemp has played a foundational role in Kentucky’s agricultural heritage, and I believe that it can be an important part of our future,” as McConnell recently put it. “I believe that we are ready to take the next step and build upon the successes we’ve seen with Kentucky’s hemp pilot program,” he claimed, referencing a 2014 law that permitted state-level test-drives of crop cultivation.
There’s a mild irony here. While hemp was once pushed by pot enthusiasts, now that pot is increasingly tolerated and accepted across the U.S., hemp is a reminder that lawmakers can increase crop freedom without increasing drug use. And in that, pro-hemp legislation offers Republicans a momentary but welcome reprieve from the ideological storms raging in Washington.
Politically speaking, these days can be difficult to navigate for mainline Republicans in Congress. After the hard work of securing December’s big tax overhaul, it’s not exactly clear where the GOP should turn for a new legislative achievement. Republicans are often comfortable as the “party of no” because they don’t believe it’s the purpose of Congress to pile up laws or impose change for change’s sake.
That’s why, when Republicans do control the legislative branch, they’re often focused on repealing major laws or trying to pass big market-friendly reforms. Thanks to Democrats and Trump, those goals are currently out of reach. Obamacare is here to stay, and economic nationalism is on the rise. In a narrowed field of possible reforms, handing hemp to the states is reasonable, responsible, and politically smart.
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