Pubdate: Sun, 17 Aug 2014
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2014 Hearst Communications Inc.
Page: A12


MURRAY, Ky. (AP) - Call it a homecoming for hemp: Marijuana's
nonintoxicating cousin is undergoing a rebirth in a state at the
forefront of efforts to reclaim it as a mainstream crop.

Researchers and farmers are producing the first legal hemp crop in
generations in Kentucky, where hemp has turned into a political cause
decades after it was banned by the federal government. Republican U.S.
Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul advocate for it, as does state
Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, a Republican who is running for
governor next year.

The comeback is strictly small scale. Experimental hemp plots more
closely resemble the size of large family gardens.

Statewide plantings totaled about 15 acres from the Appalachian
foothills in eastern Kentucky to the broad stretches of farmland in
the far west, said Adam Watson, the Kentucky Agriculture Department's
hemp program coordinator.

Test plots have shown the crop to be hardy and fast growing - and a
potential moneymaker with a remarkable range of uses including
clothing, mulch, hemp milk, cooking oil, soap and lotions.

"What we've learned is it will grow well in Kentucky," Comer said. "It
yields a lot per acre. All the things that we predicted."

At Murray State University, about 180 miles southwest of Louisville,
plants have sprouted to at least 8 feet tall, turning a shade of green
and yellow as they reach maturity. Harvest is approaching.

"It's had a good growth period," said Murray State agriculture dean
Tony Brannon. "It appeared to tolerate the extremes in weather from
extremely wet to extremely dry pretty well."

Hemp's roots in Kentucky date back to pioneer days, and the towering
stalks were once a staple at many farms.

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, Cannabis sativa, but hemp has a
negligible amount of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives
marijuana users a high.

For now, growing hemp is strictly limited. The federal farm bill
enacted this year restricts hemp production to research projects
designated by agriculture departments in states that allow the crop to
be grown.
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