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Perhaps the most misunderstood agricultural product on the market today, industrial hemp is seeing a surge of growth among U.S. agriculture producers now planting the crop in record numbers, often replacing staples like soy, corn and tobacco. With growing interest from farmers looking for more profitable harvests — and support from power brokers like U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) pushing for legalization — the legislative scales may be tipping in favor of freeing hemp from federal prohibition as early as this year.
A key factor to understanding the haziness surrounding cannabis legalization is realizing the difference between hemp and marijuana. Hemp is not marijuana. Both are types of cannabis, but one is used as a fuel, fiber, and food source (hemp), the other gets you high (marijuana). While laws regarding medical and recreational marijuana in the U.S. continue to play out state by state — with medical marijuana now legal for use in 30 states — hemp advocacy is making greater headway gaining support at the federal level. Hemp’s nonexistent psychoactive qualities have a lot to do with its widespread support. Because hemp is technically described by the feds as containing no more than 0.3 percent THC (the high-inducing facet of cannabis), hemp is considered less of a threat than marijuana and not seen as a substance for abuse.