Legal hemp crops growing in Kentucky - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Legal hemp crops growing in Kentucky


For the first time in nearly 80 years, hemp is once again being grown legally in Kentucky fields. After the passage of a bill last year, research plots have been legalized across the state. For some farmers, the move is like a return to Kentucky's roots.

"We're part of history, bringing a historic crop in Kentucky back into the lexicon of what Kentucky farmers can grow," said Rachel McCubbin of Christian County.

First planted in the state in the 1700s, hemp was once a crop just as common to see in Kentucky as smoking tobacco barns. It disappeared from the fields in 1938 when federal legislation outlawed production of cannabis including hemp.

"The farmers in this community will talk to their friends and their older relatives, and they can remember when they were children and that it was being raised," said McCubbin. "It's perfectly legal to purchase products made from hemp in the U.S. It just hasn't been legal for farmers to grow it up until now."

The deputy state director for Senator Rand Paul, McCubbin is one of several farmers now growing industrial hemp across the state. 

"We use hemp in our cosmetics and oils and soaps," she explained. "The fiber is used in automotive production in the U.S. A lot of clothing you'll buy that looks like linen actually has a hemp component."

While Paul and Senator Mitch McConnell have lent the cause their full support, some law enforcement agencies and Governor Steve Beshear have shown concern. The main worry is that hemp cultivation could have a negative impact on what Beshear has called "a tremendous drug problem in Kentucky."

"Though this plant does have THC in it, it does not have enough to get high off the product of this plant," said McCubbin.

Since being planted in June, the crop at the Jeff Davis farm outside Pembroke now stands at nearly 12 feet and is being grown for fiber. McCubbin said she's just glad to see the return of something that was once a cash crop for her state.

"Hemp could return to its rightful place as one of the many things that Kentucky farmers do well," she said.

Tennessee lawmakers removed hemp from the definition of marijuana this spring, but it didn't immediately allow farmers to grow the crop.

The Department of Agriculture says its also looking to develop rules and regulations that will allow for the cultivation of hemp by next year.

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