Search Results for: Mitch McConnell

Mitch McConnell’s Love Affair with Hemp

KENTUCKY: Last May, a shipment of 250 pounds of hemp seeds left Italy destined for Kentucky as part of a pilot project made legal by the 2014 federal farm bill. Kentucky farmers had long hoped for a crop that could fill the void left by the decline of tobacco, and many thought that industrial hemp, which is used in a vast array of products, could be that crop.

The hemp seeds cleared customs in Chicago, but when the cargo landed at the UPS wing of Louisville International Airport, the Drug Enforcement Administration seized it, arguing that importing hemp seeds required an import permit, which could take six months to process. If farmers couldn’t get those seeds into the ground by June 1, the entire first year of the hemp pilot program would be dashed.

The DEA would have succeeded in blocking the seeds from reaching Kentucky farmers and university researchers but for the efforts of the state’s agricultural commissioner, who sued the agency and, most improbably, Mitch McConnell.

McConnell—then the Senate’s minority leader—worked furiously to free the seeds from the DEA’s clutches and continued the pro-hemp drumbeat throughout 2014, as he campaigned for reelection. This year, as Senate majority leader, he’s taken a further step by co-sponsoring the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015.

McConnell Signs Farm Bill Conference Report With Kentucky Hemp Pen

KENTUCKY:  U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced today that his language to legalize industrial hemp is officially included in the finalized Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (Farm Bill). The Farm Bill Conference Report takes serious steps to ensure the future of American agriculture, and it contains the legislation — championed by Majority Leader McConnell — that would empower farmers to begin cultivating industrial hemp, a crop that can play a key role in the economic future of Kentucky and the nation.

The Farm Bill Conference Report was signed by conferees last night, including Senator McConnell who signed it with a pen made from hemp grown in Kentucky. U.S. Representative James Comer (KY-01), another Farm Bill conferee and the sponsor of Senator McConnell’s hemp provision in the House of Representatives, also signed the Farm Bill Conference Report.

Senator McConnell’s measure legalizes hemp as an agricultural commodity by removing it from the federal list of controlled substances. It also gives states the opportunity to become the primary regulators of hemp production, allows hemp researchers to apply for competitive federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and makes hemp eligible for crop insurance. This measure builds upon the hemp pilot programs, which Senator McConnell secured in the 2014 Farm Bill.

“Last year alone, Kentucky hemp recorded more than $16 million in product sales through the state pilot program I previously secured, demonstrating that hemp holds great potential for the future of Kentucky agriculture,” said Senator McConnell. “My Hemp Farming Act as included in the Farm Bill will not only legalize domestic hemp, but it will also allow state departments of agriculture to be responsible for its oversight. In Kentucky, that means that Commissioner Ryan Quarles, another champion of hemp, will be able to help farmers thrive. When the Senate votes on this legislation in the coming days, we will also be voting to give farmers throughout the country the chance to tap into hemp’s potential and take part in its future.”

“When I was elected Commissioner of Agriculture, I promised to take Kentucky’s hemp program to the next level and establish our state as the epicenter of the industry in the United States,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles. “This Farm Bill helps achieve that goal, and demonstrates that hemp is no longer a novelty but a serious crop that will unleash economic opportunity for our farmers. We would not be here today without the unwavering support of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and our congressional delegation.”

In collaboration with agriculture leaders in Kentucky and throughout the nation, Senator McConnell utilized his position as Senate Majority Leader to secure language in the 2014 Farm Bill to authorize hemp research pilot programs. He built on that success with federal legislation to ensure that hemp produced from the pilot programs could be transported, processed, and marketed. Under the guidance of Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Quarles and his predecessor, now-U.S. Representative Comer, these programs have allowed Kentucky farmers to both research the plant and to demonstrate its full potential.

“Without Senator McConnell’s leadership on the 2018 Farm Bill and the Hemp Language, it would not have gotten this far. I am grateful that the Majority Leader found this issue so important that he appointed himself as a Farm Bill conferee to ensure his bill to legalize hemp will become a reality. As a Kentucky hemp farmer and processor, it is very important to me that Congress passes this bill and sends it to the President’s desk,” said Brian Furnish, Director of Farming & Global Production at Ananda Hemp in Cynthiana, Kentucky.

“We appreciate Senator McConnell’s unwavering support and leadership on behalf of hemp in Congress. By securing hemp legalization in the Farm Bill, Kentuckians can feel confident in the future of hemp and fully embrace its potential as an agricultural crop. This will open a vast amount of new opportunities for farmers, processors, retailers, and entrepreneurs like us here in Kentucky and nationwide,” said Alyssa Erickson, Co-founder of Kentucky Hempsters.

The Farm Bill Conference Report is expected to be approved by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in the coming days; it will then be sent to President Donald Trump for his signature. In addition to the hemp measure, the Farm Bill strengthens the safety measures that directly help commodity producers as they confront low prices, volatile markets, and the constant threat of natural disasters. It also seizes on a number of opportunities to invest in the future of American agriculture and rural communities by expanding rural broadband, enhancing water infrastructure, and continuing the fight against the opioid epidemic that is devastating rural America.

According the 2017 processor production reports: Kentucky licensed processors paid Kentucky growers $7.5 million for harvested hemp. Additionally, Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program processor licensees reported $25.6 million in capital improvements and investments and $16.7 million in gross product sales. In 2017, more than 3,200 acres of hemp were being grown across Kentucky.

Senate Passes Farm Bill, Which Includes Senator McConnell’s Hemp Farming Act

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced today the Senate passed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (Farm Bill), which takes serious steps to ensure the future of American agriculture. A conference committee made up with members from both chambers will now reconcile the Senate and House versions of the Farm Bill.

The Senate Farm Bill strengthens the safety measures that directly help commodity producers as they confront low prices and the constant threat of natural disasters. It also seizes on a number of opportunities to invest in the future of American agriculture and rural communities. It contains a provision – championed by Senator McConnell — that would empower farmers to begin cultivating industrial hemp, a crop that could play a key role in the economic future of Kentucky and the nation. It also focuses on expanding rural broadband and water infrastructure and continuing the fight against the opioid epidemic is devastating rural America.

“As the proud senior Senator from the Commonwealth of Kentucky who has served on the Agriculture Committee since my first day in the Senate, I know exactly how important this legislation is to agricultural communities. From soybeans and corn to hay and tobacco to poultry and livestock, Kentucky agriculture encompasses a multi-billion-dollar industry that supports thousands and thousands of good jobs in nearly every corner of the Commonwealth,” Senator McConnell said. “Kentuckians know as well as anyone just how important American agriculture is — and we understand as well as anyone all the unique challenges that it faces. That is why I proudly supported this bill, which will bolster programs supporting our producers.”

“Today’s passage of the Senate version of the Farm Bill takes farm families here in Kentucky and across the country one step closer to the certainty they need to survive such a tough agricultural economy,” said Kentucky Farm Bureau President Mark Haney. “I would like to thank Senator McConnell on his extensive efforts to move forward the single most important piece of legislation affecting agriculture and rural communities. He continually works to help an industry that is so crucial to every citizen in this country, as well as our neighbors across the world who depend heavily on the success of the American farmer.”

The Senate Farm Bill also includes Senator McConnell’s measure (The Hemp Farming Act of 2018) to legalize hemp as an agricultural commodity by removing it from the federal list of controlled substances. It also gives states the opportunity to become the primary regulators of hemp production, allows hemp researchers to apply for competitive federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and makes hemp farmers eligible to apply for crop insurance.

“Last year alone, Kentucky hemp recorded more than $16 million in product sales through the state pilot program I previously secured, demonstrating that hemp holds great potential for the future of Kentucky agriculture,” Senator McConnell added. “For far too long, the federal government has prevented most farmers from growing hemp. Although it was a foundational part of Kentucky’s heritage and today you can buy hemp products at stores across the country, most American farmers have been barred from planting it in their fields. I have heard from many Kentucky farmers who agree it’s time to remove the federal hurdles and give our state the opportunity to seize its full potential and once again become the national leader for hemp production. That is why I strongly advocated for this measure to be included in the Farm Bill, which will finally and fully legalize industrial hemp.”

“For farmers across America, there is no piece of legislation more important than the Farm Bill,” saidKentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles. “I am particularly excited to see that the full text of Leader McConnell’s Hemp Farming Act of 2018 made it into this bipartisan bill. This Farm Bill will allow state departments of agriculture, like Kentucky’s, to unleash the full economic potential of industrial hemp pilot programs. I applaud Leader McConnell for his tireless advocacy for Kentucky farmers.”

In collaboration with agriculture leaders in Kentucky and throughout the nation, Senator McConnell utilized his position as Senate Majority Leader to secure language in the 2014 Farm Bill to authorize hemp research pilot programs. He built on that success with federal legislation to ensure that hemp produced from the pilot program could be transported, processed, and marketed. Under the guidance of Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles and his predecessor, now-U.S. Representative James Comer (KY-1), these programs have allowed Kentucky farmers to both research the plant and to demonstrate its potential. Representative Comer is leading the effort on this issue in the House of Representatives.

McConnell Secures Hemp Victory In Farm Bill

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) joined his colleagues on the U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee today to vote in favor of the Farm Bill. During the committee meeting, Senator McConnell discussed his legislation to legalize industrial hemp and the importance of including his Hemp Farming Act of 2018 in the Farm Bill. Senator McConnell’s provision removes federal roadblocks to industrial hemp and gives Kentucky the opportunity to once again be at the forefront of hemp production.

Senator McConnell made the following comment after today’s Agriculture Committee vote to approve the Farm Bill:

“Supporting Kentucky’s agriculture communities, this legislation will provide certainty to thousands of farm families while also protecting important tools like crop insurance. After today’s important vote, Kentucky farmers are one step closer to having the opportunity to tap into the growing hemp market. By securing my hemp provision in the Farm Bill, we are building upon the successes of the hemp pilot programs and encouraging the great potential of this versatile crop. I would like to thank Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts for his work on this victory for our farmers, processors, and manufacturers. I look forward to considering this legislation on the Senate floor so we can continue to see new products with Kentucky-grown hemp in our state and throughout the nation.”

With the Committee’s approval of the Farm Bill, Senator McConnell announced the legislation will go before the full Senate for consideration before July 4th

Senator McConnell and Commissioner Quarles Announce Hemp Legislation

KENTUCKY: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles (R-KY) announced today the impending introduction of legislation in the United States Senate to support Kentucky’s hemp industry. The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 will legalize hemp as an agricultural commodity and remove it from the list of controlled substances.

Senator McConnell took the first step to support hemp in 2014 by using his leadership position in the Senate to spearhead a provision to legalize hemp pilot programs in the Farm Bill. Since then, the research has shown the potential of hemp as an agricultural commodity.

“Hemp has played a foundational role in Kentucky’s agricultural heritage, and I believe that it can be an important part of our future,” Senator McConnell said. “I am grateful to join our Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles in this effort. He and his predecessor, Jamie Comer, have been real champions for the research and development of industrial hemp in the Commonwealth. The work of Commissioner Quarles here in Kentucky has become a nationwide example for the right way to cultivate hemp. I am proud to stand here with him today, because 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.”

“Here in Kentucky, we have built the best Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program in the country and have established a model for how other states can do the same with buy-in from growers, processors, and law enforcement,” Commissioner Quarles said. “I want to thank Leader McConnell for introducing this legislation which allows us to harness the economic viability of this crop and presents the best opportunity to put hemp on a path to commercialization.”

The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 will help Kentucky enhance its position as the leading state on hemp production. It builds upon the success we have seen through the hemp pilot programs by allowing states to be the primary regulators of hemp, if the U.S. Department of Agriculture approves their implementation plan. This legislation also will remove the federal barriers in place that have stifled the industry, which will help expand the domestic production of hemp. It will also give hemp researchers the chance to apply for competitive federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture – allowing them to continue their impressive work with the support of federal research dollars.

Senator McConnell plans to introduce the bill in the Senate, with Senator Rand Paul and a bipartisan group of members, following this state work period.

McConnell Inserts Hemp Provision Into Senate Farm Appropriations Bill

KENTUCKY:  U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has inserted into the Senate farm appropriations bill a provision aimed at making it easier to process legally grown industrial hemp. The measure would help farmers transport hemp between states so the crop can be developed for commercial purposes.

“Kentucky’s industrial hemp pilot programs continue to prosper, and I want to make sure our legal hemp producers can safely transport their crops between states, including to states that maintain processing facilities, so they can fully capitalize on the commercial potential for this commodity,” McConnell, R-Louisville, said in a news release from his Washington office. The provision “re-emphasizes that industrial hemp from a farm bill research program is an agricultural commodity,” he said.

State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said the provision was vital to developing a thriving hemp industry in the state.

Higher Ground Hits The Ballot Box

We’ve Turned Our Attention to Voting

By Michael A. Stusser

When we started Higher Ground in 2010, our mission was to Elevate the Dialogue on Cannabis Culture. While we supported the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana (no states at that time had legalized recreational weed), we were intentionally non-partisan when it came to politicians themselves: There were candidates from all parties in support of legalization: Most Democrats liked the progressive nature of ending the War on Drugs, many Republicans supported States rights (and eliminating the black market), the Green Party liked growing weed (apparently), and Libertarians, of course, liked the idea of the government staying the hell out of our damned business.

Fast forward to 2020 (in hindsight?), and there are eleven States that have legalized recreational cannabis, a total of 33 States that have made medical marijuana available, and SEVENTY PERCENT of Americans say it’s morally permissible for adults to “smoke marijuana,” regardless of the plant’s legal status (Gallup poll). In addition, for the first time, a majority of Republicans (56%) ALSO favor legal marijuana.(Hell, even that fool Kanye, a vocal Trump supporter, has become a strong campaigner for criminal justice and prison reform.) Point is, people want legal cannabis federally, and it’s going to happen in the very near future. (Sadly, the vast majority of Americans ALSO want gun control and single payer health care, which will probably take even more time to come about…)

Here at Higher Ground, we are NOT single-issue voters. There are plenty of candidates who support cannabis legalization who we would not vote for in a million years. (Take Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida. Please. And, while Sen. Mitch McConnell helped pass the farm bill last year which legalized hemp, he’s the worst asshat in the entire Congress.) Our values of equality and justice and peace and fairness override any single issue. Like most of you we’ll research an individual’s platform and let their actions and beliefs guide our electoral choices. Unfortunately, the United States of America, is still in shambles. The pandemic rages, millions are out of work, and racial inequality and police brutality, primarily against people of color, have come to the forefront via the inspirational Black Lives Matter movement.
ONE HUNDRED MILLION Americans who were eligible to vote in the 2016 election did not vote. Let’s repeat that: ONE HUNDRED MILLION Americans who were eligible to vote in the last presidential election (43% of the total) did not vote.
It is our belief that, if the majority of Americans participate in our democracy, we will have a more inclusive, just set of politicians and policies. We’ll also have legal cannabis, an administration that believes in science and global warming, and more people of color and women in positions of power. Which is why we’re devoting the next five months to the Ballot Box.
In a collaboration with the amazing cannabis brand Saints Joints, we have created The Higher Ground Ballot Box, a high-end box of cannabis joints designed to smash stoner stereotypes by registering people to vote. In addition to five premium pre-rolls, the Ballot Box contains a code that immediately registers voters, a mini version of the Bill of Rights, and non-partisan information about voting and elections. With the Ballot Box, we’re using a new platform as an entry point to spark engagement, and register new voters.
The Ballot Box includes a special QR code that directs to the Cannabis Voter Project – and registers individuals to vote. Established in 2018 as an initiative from HeadCount, the nonprofit and non-partisan Cannabis Voter Project is focused on educating, registering and turning out voters. HeadCount has registered half a million voters since 2004 at concerts and events. The Ballot Box link includes an easy-to-use online registration page and news to keep voters informed on election deadlines and voting locations.
We’re not the only ones laser-focused on voting this election.  LeBron James has partnered with other black athletes and entertainers to protect the voting rights of African Americans. The organization, called More Than A Vote, will pair up with other voting organizations and is even working for NBA arenas to be used as polling places for the coming 2020 election.
When We All Vote is another wonderful nonpartisan organization trying to increase participation. Launched in 2018 by co-chairs Tom Hanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Janelle Monae, Chris Paul, Faith Hill, Michelle Obama and Tim McGraw, When We All Vote is working to close the race and age voting gap by changing the culture around voting, and harnessing grassroots energy.
We understand that legalization is a small but important step toward fixing discriminatory policing and racial inequality. But for those who ARE single-issue voters, and cannabis is your main priority, there are plenty of reasons to make sure you’re part of the democratic process. Obviously, the issue is hardly just about smoking weed. The War on Drugs and prohibition continues to be disproportionately applied. Every year over 650,000 Americans are arrested for violating cannabis laws – and not surprisingly, in every single state, black people are more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, even though white people use cannabis at the same rates. Cannabis is always on the ballot: The War on Drugs and DEA policies have been used as a tactic to target, harass, assault, criminalize, and incarcerate communities of color for a hundred years.
Currently, only 23 states allow citizen-initiated ballot initiatives, meaning in most states the only way to reform cannabis laws is through the legislature. Dozens of cannabis policy reform bills have also been introduced in state legislatures across the nation, and supporting pro-cannabis candidates at the local level has real impact. Clemency campaigns and releasing prisoners for pot is also something where the needle can be moved at the local level by electing progressive governors and attorney generals.
Sadly, there are still a lot of silly stereotypes about stoners. We’re lazy. We’re couch potatoes. We wake and bake. We’re vegetables. Well here at Higher Ground, we’re working to counter all those outdated cliches-because we know cannabis consumers are as active, involved and civic as any other community. So do us a favor – VOTE in November. Join our Joint Effort. It’s the most important election in our lifetime, and we’d like your voice to be heard. (We’d also like you to be legally stoned….)

Photo: Lamar Alexander; Styling: Malina Lopez


Senator Schumer Announces Canopy Growth’s $100-150 Million Investment In Southern Tier Hemp

Schumer: This Project Will Be A Huge Shot In The Arm For The Southern Tier’s Economy And Will Position The Region At The Forefront Of The Industrial Hemp Revolution

NEW YORK: U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced, following his all-out effort to pass his legislation the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 as part of the bipartisan, 2018 Farm Bill, which was signed into law last December that Canopy Growth will invest between $100 and $150 million in a project to be sited in the Southern Tier. This industrial hemp focused project will make the Southern Tier a hub for processing, research and development. The establishment of a first-of-its-kind hemp industrial park in New York, and one of the first in the nation, will attract various types of industrial hemp-oriented businesses to the region, feature a large industrial hemp processing operation, and provide countless opportunities for the region’s farmers and growers. Schumer explained that this project will bring hundreds of good-paying jobs to the Southern Tier, with the potential to add many more as more industry-oriented businesses locate in the area. Schumer applauded Canopy Growth for choosing New York and seizing the opportunity to be at the forefront of the Southern Tier’s industrial hemp revolution.

“Now that we’ve stripped the burdensome federal regulations and restrictions from industrial hemp, the industry in the Southern Tier is poised to explode with the growing and processing of this exciting new crop that has so many applications, and this major project will help make sure of it. This investment could create hundreds of good paying jobs in the region, help a new industry take root, and serve as a magnet for more companies and industry-related enterprise to locate to the region,” said Senator Schumer. “In addition, this industry and particular project will offer new opportunities for growers and provide a real boon for Southern Tier farmers. I’m proud to announce this major, job-creating investment in the Southern Tier, and will keep fighting tirelessly to support the burgeoning industrial hemp industry in the region.”

The Schumer-backed Hemp Farming Act of 2018 was introduced by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), passed and signed into law as part of the 2018 Farm Bill, and does the following:

·       Removes industrial hemp from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act

·       Empowers states to be the principal regulators of hemp

·       Allows hemp researchers to apply for competitive federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

·       Makes hemp farmers eligible to apply for crop insurance

Industrial hemp is a type of cannabis plant that is grown largely for industrial uses, but it can also be utilized for food, oil, and cosmetic products. Hemp contains a very small amount, typically between 0.2 and 0.3 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and while from the same species of plant as marijuana, it has varied widely in use. However, due to the existence of THC in hemp, Schumer explained, both plants were considered “controlled substances” under federal law, meaning the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was the primary regulator for hemp production. Schumer argued that this narrow view has undermined the crop’s agricultural and economic potential. With the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 passed by Congress and signed into law last year, this unnecessary roadblock has been lifted, and industrial hemp’s significant potential to become a cash crop in Upstate New York’s will be unleashed.

Reconciled Farm Bill To Include Provisions Lifting Federal Hemp Ban

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  House and Senate lawmakers have agreed in principle to a reconciled version of H.R. 2: The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (aka the 2018 Farm Bill), which includes provisions lifting the federal prohibition of industrial hemp.

The hemp-specific provisions – which Senate Majority Speaker Mitch McConnell (R-KY) included in the Senate version of the bill, but were absent from the House version – amend federal regulations to further expand and facilitate state-licensed hemp production, research, and commerce. The language also for the first time amends the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970 so that industrial hemp plants containing no more than 0.3 percent THC are no longer classified as a schedule I controlled substance. (See page 1182, Section 12608: ‘Conforming changes to controlled substances act.’) Certain cannabinoid compounds extracted from the hemp plant would also be exempt from the CSA.

House and Senate lawmakers still need to vote on the engrossed version of the Act, which they are expected to do later this month. Passage of the bill would allow state governments, rather than the federal governments, to be the primary regulators of hemp and hempen products.

Senator McConnell previously shepherded hemp-related language (Section 7606) in the 2014 version of the Farm Bill, permitting states to establish hemp research and cultivation programs absent federal approval. A majority of states have now enacted legislation to permit such programs.


For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500 or Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org.

 

New Jersey: Governor Signs Hemp Cultivation Bill Into Law

NEW JERSEY: Governor Phil Murphy has signed legislation into law permitting the state to establish a pilot program to assess and promote the cultivation of industrial hemp.

Assembly Bill 1330/Senate Bill 3145 authorizes the Department of Agriculture to partner with Rutgers University “to study and promote the cultivation of industrial hemp to the maximum extent permitted by federal law.” Over 40 states have adopted similar legislation.

Federal law permits states to engage in limited hemp production. Pending federal provisions in the Senate-version of H.R. 2: The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (aka the 2018 Farm Bill) for the first time amends the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970 so that industrial hemp plants containing no more than 0.3 percent THC are no longer classified as a schedule I controlled substance. (See page 1182, Section 12608: ‘Conforming changes to controlled substances act.’).

Earlier this month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) “guaranteed” that the hemp-related provisions would remain in the bill following the reconciliation process.


For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500.