While most Republican members of Congress have been lukewarm at best to the prospect of legalizing marijuana, senators introduced a bipartisan measure this week to legalize industrial hemp. Riding on the passage of recent Kentucky Senate bills to ease hemp growing, the state’s Republican senators, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, joined Oregon Democratic Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden in introducing a bill to legalize production of the strain of cannabis used in the production of goods.
Hemp is a plant in the cannabis family with significantly lower levels of the psychoactive component, THC, than most varieties that are smoked or consumed. It is used to make textiles, paper, paints, clothing, plastics, cosmetics, foodstuffs, insulation, animal feed and other products, according to NORML. Hemp is nonetheless lumped in with all other cannabis products, which are classified as Schedule I under the Controlled Substances Act, the most restrictive of the five schedules designated for those substances considered dangerous with no currently accepted medical value.
The bill, which would would remove hemp from the controlled substances list and define it as a non-drug so long as it contains less than 0.3 percent THC, is a small demonstration of fading hysteria over anything “cannabis” that emerged in the era of “Reefer Madness.” It also raises questions, however, about federal support for legalizing at least those strains of medical cannabis that have very low levels of THC, as well as those chemical compounds extracted from marijuana that are low in THC.