KENTUCKY: Jim Barton is finally harvesting a crop of hemp, the cannabis variety used in colonial times to make rope, sailcloth and other goods.
But the 80-year-old Kentucky farmer isn’t celebrating the successful drive to loosen marijuana laws that also moved Congress to allow pilot plots of his non-intoxicating version of the plant.
“Marijuana has always been the problem with hemp,” said Barton, taking a break from a green Deere combine on a farm outside Lexington. “Marijuana is a danger. Hemp is not.”
Confusion over the two plants has kept hemp-growing illegal in the U.S. for generations. As attitudes toward marijuana ease — voters in Washington, D.C., Alaska and Oregon on Nov. 4 became the latest to legalize it for recreational use — hemp has gained support for experimental legal cultivation. Success could help Kentucky farmers struggling with falling tobacco output and lower revenue from corn and soybeans.