Forget legalizing pot: Two of the most powerful Republicans in the Senate believe there’s a much stronger chance to legalize growing hemp in the U.S., opening up an entirely new market for crops, health food, oil, shirts, towels and even dog toys.
Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul and Rep. Thomas Massie are pushing legislation in both chambers of Congress that would remove the less-potent member of the cannabis family from the federal list of controlled substances, allowing its return to America’s farmland after more than 40 years.
It’s a states’ rights and economic growth issue, the Republican lawmakers argue. Legalizing hemp would create jobs.
“People used to downplay the number of jobs industrial hemp might create and say, ‘Well it’s a few thousand jobs and a couple million in commerce,’” Massie said. But all told, legalizing the crop has the potential to create 10 times as many jobs “as the Keystone XL pipeline will create 10 years from now.”
Hemp legalization legislation has been considered in Congress since 2005, when then-Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) pushed the issue. But the current bills have champions in positions of power, including the Senate majority leader and a potential White House contender.