LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Michael Lewis felt some anxiety when he stepped forward as one of Kentucky's first farmers to test the potential of hemp production, but some recent action by Congress has helped set his mind at ease.
The latest federal farm bill allows states to designate hemp projects for research and development. And now, the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill passed by Congress and sent to President Barack Obama would prohibit federal drug officials from interfering with those projects.
Lewis said Tuesday he sees the latest hemp provision as a way to further legitimize a crop with a multitude of uses. The non-intoxicating plant has been banned for decades due to its family ties to marijuana.
"My name and my reputation are tied up in this," Lewis said. "It's a huge peace of mind to know that we're OK. We thought we should be all along, but now this sort of confirms that. ... It's definitely going to give me an hour or two of extra sleep at night."
Growing hemp without a federal permit was banned in 1970 due to its classification as a controlled substance related to marijuana. Hemp and marijuana are the same species, but hemp has a negligible amount of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high.
Kentucky has been at the forefront of efforts to revive the crop, prized for oils, seeds and fiber.