About Kentucky Hemp

Kentucky has a long history growing hemp due to the quality of it’s land and a near perfect weather environment. Here is the article as posted at wikipedia.

The production of hemp in the U.S. state of Kentucky has a history dating to pioneer times, was criminalized in the 20th century, and has recently resumed as a legal industry.

Early cultivation

In the 18th century, John Filson wrote in Kentucke and the Adventures of Col. Daniel Boone (an appendix of his 1784 work The Discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucke) of the quality of Kentucky’s land and climate for hemp production. The first hemp crop in Kentucky was raised near Danville in 1775.

Kentucky was the greatest producer of U.S. hemp in the 19th and 20th century, with thousands of acres of hemp in production. Senator Henry Clay was a “hemp pioneer” and the “strongest advocate” of Kentucky hemp. He grew it on his Kentucky estate Ashland and brought new seeds to the state from Asia. Clay’s oratory on the Senate floor in 1810 in favor of requiring the Navy to use domestic hemp exclusively for ship’s rigging was widely reprinted in newspapers and is credited for beginning the elaboration of the American System. According to a 1902 periodical, Kentucky was responsible for 3/4 of U.S. hemp fiber production. Production reached a peak in 1917 at 18,000 acres, mostly grown in the Bluegrass region, then waned due to market forces after World War I as other sources of fiber were introduced. A Federal program to reintroduce hemp for wartime needs in Kentucky and other states during World War II reached 52,000 acres in Kentucky in 1943. The WWII effort is documented in the USDA film Hemp for Victory.

Decline and criminalization

Production of hemp had seen a decline after World War I. The decline was due to market forces including the rise of tobacco as the cash crop of choice in Kentucky and foreign sources of hemp fiber and finished products. The availability of cheap synthetic fiber after World War II even further discouraged farmers from growing it.

Federal policies, tightened by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, virtually banned the production of industrial hemp during the War on Drugs. According to an industry group, “the 1970 Act abolished the taxation approach [of the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act] and effectively made all Cannabis cultivation illegal”. The Drug Enforcement Administration refused to issue permits for legal hemp cultivation and held that, since industrial hemp is from the same species plant as prohibited cannabis (despite its being of lower THC yield), both were prohibited under the Controlled Substances Act. In the words of a 2015 PBS NewsHour segment on hemp, “To the federal government, hemp is just as illegal as marijuana”, and according to Newsweek, “all cannabis sativa—whether grown to ease chronic pain, get stoned or make rope—is a schedule I controlled substance”.

Partial relegalization

By the late 20th century, consumer demand for hemp products was resurgent but American farmers were left as bystanders. Imported agricultural products were allowed from other countries, including Canada, but growing hemp legally was not possible in the United States. In 1994, Kentucky was one of the first states to consider reintroducing hemp cultivation, with a commission convened by governor Bereton Jones to investigate legal pathways to do so. In 2013, Kentucky passed a state law, Senate Bill 50, allowing production for agricultural research purposes. Although the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013, which would have allowed hemp production, failed, agricultural hemp was allowed by federal law under the Agricultural Act of 2014 (farm bill). The provision allowing research was added by Kentucky’s senior U.S. Senator, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Production was 33 acres in 2014, 922 acres in 2015, 2,350 in 2016, and 12,800 acres in 2017. As of 2016 harvest season, only two U.S. states other than Kentucky had over 100 acres in hemp production: Colorado and Tennessee, with smaller projects under way in six other states including Indiana, Nebraska, New York, and Virginia.

The Industrial Hemp Research Program was conducted under the auspices of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. Research at the University of Kentucky’s Spindletop Research Farm sought to improved agronomy and includes research on optimizing cannabinoid yield. The first research crops at Spindletop and Murray State University were planted in May, 2014, with seed obtained from California and, after a legal battle with the Drug Enforcement Administration, imported from Italy. The researchers are also engineering new mechanical harvesters that can reach the 10–12-foot high flowers of tall-growing hemp. The first 500-acre commercial crop was planted in Harrison County in 2017, and research permits were issued for over 12,000 acres that year.

Legal status

Under state law, all hemp grown in compliance with the 2014 farm bill must have a THC content below 0.3%. Farmers participating in the program must use seeds provided by an educational institution with a DEA license and use varieties expected to be low in THC. A sample of each farmer’s hemp crop is tested by the state.


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