Kentucky's state Senate Agriculture Committee voted unanimously on Monday to approve legislation that could pave the way for the creation of a legal hemp industry in the state, following testimony from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who claimed to be wearing a hemp shirt.
The proposed bill -- which will now be considered by the full state senate -- would establish a process for Kentucky farmers to begin growing hemp, but only if the federal government first passes a measure to remove the crop from a list of illegal drugs. Hemp is currently listed alongside its more potent cousin, marijuana, as a Schedule I controlled substance. Other Schedule I drugs include heroin and LSD.
During testimony recorded by the Louisville Courier-Journal on Monday, Paul claimed to be wearing a "hemp shirt" that he had been forced to buy in Canada due to an ongoing prohibition on the plant. He was one of several lawmakers to testify.
"It's a crop that's legal everywhere else in the world except the United States," Paul said, questioning why the United States was still forcefully neglecting a potential high-performing industry.
Watch video of Paul's testimony below, via the Courier-Journal:
The push to legalize hemp production in Kentucky has a number of high-profile supporters. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) came out in favor of the campaign last month, joining Paul, half of the state's six-member congressional delegation and a number of state lawmakers.
According to a Hemp Industries Association report cited by Bloomberg last month, U.S. retail sales of products with imported hemp were valued at more than $452 million in 2011.
And while Kentucky would likely be a prime beneficiary of a move to legalize industrial hemp production, some in the state still have their doubts. A number of state lawmakers and members of the Kentucky law enforcement community also spoke Monday, repeating their arguments that lifting the ban on hemp would complicate efforts to crack down on marijuana.