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Industrial hemp hasn't been legal to grow in the United States for decades.
Not that people haven't wanted to grow it, but right or wrong, hemp has been lumped in with its botanical cousin, marijuana, for a long time.
State Sen. Joey Pendleton has been pushing for the legalization of hemp for years, and this year, our own State Rep. Terry Mills has joined him. Pendleton doesn't expect the legislation he and Mills have introduced in their respective houses of the legislature to be passed this year, but he is hopeful that he can build momentum toward passage in the near future, possibly in 2013.
As Pendleton has said, he would like Kentucky to be proactive for a change, not reactive.
And we agree.
Industrial hemp is versatile. We've all heard how hemp was the primary source for rope during World War I and World War II. It can be used to make clothing, paper, and fuel.
We don't have the scientific information to confirm Pendleton's statement that hemp can produce twice as much ethanol per acre than corn, but if it's at least as productive in that regard, it would be worth growing for that purpose.
Going at least as far back at President Jimmy Carter, presidents have been saying we need to ween our country off of imported oil. That's never been more obvious than it is today. We need to develop an alternative source of fuel for national security reasons, for economic reasons and for environmental reasons. Hemp can meet all these needs.
Unless you are reading this online, you are holding another possible use for hemp - paper. In a world that's going increasingly digital, the need for paper may be in decline, but it will never go away completely. And hemp, compared to trees, can be replaced much more quickly and without destroying the homes of countless woodland critters.
Now, we would never tell you to believe everything you can find online about industrial hemp, but we do know you can easily find clothing makers and make-up companies that include hemp into their products.
And if Kentucky farmers could grow hemp, it could provide another option to help replace some of the revenue that has been lost from tobacco.
We don't believe hemp is a panacea for all the ills in our country. However, it can help, but only if our laws are changed to allow it.
And like Pendleton, we agree that this is a case where we would like to see Kentucky lead the way, instead of just following behind.