Hemp in Kentucky Article

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Kentucky hemp harvest, 1895

Kentucky was the greatest producer of hemp in the United States during the 19th and 20th century. Kentucky was responsible for 3/4 of U.S. hemp fiber production. Hemp production started to decline after WWI due to the rise of tobacco as the cash crop in Kentucky and the foreign competition of hemp fibers and finished products. In 1970, federal policies virtually banned the production of industrial hemp during the War on Drugs saying all cannabis sativa is a Schedule 1 controlled substance. In 2014, federal law under the Agricultural Act of 2014 allowed research back into hemp. Kentucky began production again with 33 acres in 2014. As of 2016 harvest season, only two U.S. states other than Kentucky had over 100 acres (40 ha) in hemp production: Colorado and Tennessee. The first 500-acre commercial crop was planted in Harrison County in 2017, and research permits were issued for over 12,000 acres (4,900 ha) that year. The 2016 documentary Harvesting Liberty concerns the 21st century Kentucky hemp industry. [1]


Early Cultivation

19th century Kentucky hemp field
Soldiers in a Kentucky warehouse guarding seed for the 1943 hemp crop

In the 18th century, John Filson wrote in Kentucke and the Adventures of Col. Daniel Boone (an appendix of his 1784 work The Discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucke) of the quality of Kentucky's land and climate for hemp production. [2] The first hemp crop in Kentucky was raised near Danville in 1775. [3] [4]

Kentucky was the greatest producer of U.S. hemp in the 19th and 20th century, with thousands of acres of hemp in production. [5] [a] Senator Henry Clay was a "hemp pioneer" and the "strongest advocate" of Kentucky hemp. He grew it on his Kentucky estate Ashland and brought new seeds to the state from Asia. [7] [8] [9] Clay's oratory on the Senate floor in 1810 in favor of requiring the Navy to use domestic hemp exclusively for ship's rigging was widely reprinted in newspapers and is credited for beginning the elaboration of the American System. [10] According to a 1902 periodical, Kentucky was responsible for 3/4 of U.S. hemp fiber production. [11] Production reached a peak in 1917 at 18,000 acres, mostly grown in the Bluegrass region, then waned due to market forces after World War I as other sources of fiber were introduced. [12] [13] A Federal program to reintroduce hemp for wartime needs in Kentucky and other states during World War II reached 52,000 acres in Kentucky in 1943. The WWII effort is documented in the USDA film Hemp for Victory . [14]:1

Decline and Criminalization

Production of hemp had seen a decline after World War I. The decline was due to market forces including the rise of tobacco as the cash crop of choice in Kentucky and foreign sources of hemp fiber and finished products. [15] The availability of cheap synthetic fiber after World War II even further discouraged farmers from growing it. [16]

Federal policies, tightened by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, virtually banned the production of industrial hemp during the War on Drugs. According to an industry group, "the 1970 Act abolished the taxation approach [of the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act] and effectively made all Cannabis cultivation illegal". [17] The Drug Enforcement Administration refused to issue permits for legal hemp cultivation [b] and held that, since industrial hemp is from the same species plant as prohibited cannabis (despite its being of lower THC yield), both were prohibited under the Controlled Substances Act. [16] [19] In the words of a 2015 PBS NewsHour segment on hemp, "To the federal government, hemp is just as illegal as marijuana", [20] and according to Newsweek, "all cannabis sativa—whether grown to ease chronic pain, get stoned or make rope—is a schedule I controlled substance". [8]

Partial Re-Legalization

By the late 20th century, consumer demand for hemp products was resurgent but American farmers were left as bystanders. Imported agricultural products were allowed from other countries, including Canada, but growing hemp legally was not possible in the United States. [21] [c] In 1994, Kentucky was one of the first states to consider reintroducing hemp cultivation, with a commission convened by governor Brereton Jones to investigate legal pathways to do so. [22] In 2013, Kentucky passed a state law, Senate Bill 50, allowing production for agricultural research purposes. Although the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013, which would have allowed hemp production, failed, [14]:2 agricultural hemp was allowed by federal law under the Agricultural Act of 2014 (farm bill). [8] [23] [24] [25] The provision allowing research was added by Kentucky's senior U.S. Senator, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. [20] Production was 33 acres in 2014, 922 acres in 2015, 2,350 in 2016, 12,800 acres in 2017, and 6,700 acres in 2018. [26] [27] [28] [29] As of 2016 harvest season, only two U.S. states other than Kentucky had over 100 acres (40 ha) in hemp production: Colorado and Tennessee, with smaller projects under way in six other states including Indiana, Nebraska, New York, and Virginia. [30] [31] [32] [33] [34]

The Industrial Hemp Research Program was conducted under the auspices of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. Research at the University of Kentucky's Spindletop Research Farm sought to improved agronomy and includes research on optimizing cannabinoid yield. [35] [36] The first research crops at Spindletop and Murray State University were planted in May, 2014, with seed obtained from California and, after a legal battle with the Drug Enforcement Administration, imported from Italy. [37] [38] The researchers are also engineering new mechanical harvesters that can reach the 10–12-foot (3.0–3.7 m) high flowers of tall-growing hemp. [39] The first 500-acre commercial crop was planted in Harrison County in 2017, [40] and research permits were issued for over 12,000 acres (4,900 ha) that year. [41]

Legal status

Under federal law, the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) present in both cannabis and hemp remains a schedule I controlled substance. [18]

Under state law, all hemp grown in compliance with the 2014 farm bill must have a THC content below 0.3%. [42] Farmers participating in the program must use seeds provided by an educational institution with a DEA license and use varieties expected to be low in THC. A sample of each farmer's hemp crop is tested by the state. [26] [43]

Under the 2018 United States farm bill, commodity hemp production was federally legalized. [44]


Businesses exist in Kentucky which provide agricultural products based on hemp or supporting hemp production. Cynthiana-based Ananda Hemp has been operating in the Commonwealth since 2014. [45]

Oil extraction

Testing of a $400,000 oil extraction facility in Winchester began in March, 2016, with full production capacity of 20,000 pounds (9,100 kg) per hour expected by the end of the year. [46] GenCanna and Atalo Holdings are hopeful of turning their property at Winchester into a "Hemp Research Campus". [8]

Seed production

Three varieties of hemp seed from Lexington seed company Schiavi Seeds were the first to be certified by Colorado Department of Agriculture. [47] Certified in late 2016 for the 2017 Colorado crop, the varieties were originally from Italy and Serbia. [48] [49]


The 2016 documentary Harvesting Liberty concerns the 21st century Kentucky hemp industry. [1]

See also


  1. ^ "From the end of the Civil War until 1912, virtually all hemp in the US was produced in Kentucky." [6]
  2. ^ A legal scholar wrote in 1999, "By law, industrial hemp is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance because of its distant relationship to the much higher THC-containing plant, marijuana. Anyone wishing to grow, cultivate, or manufacture a Schedule I controlled substance must obtain licensing permission from the D.E.A. ... [I]ndustrial hemp cannot be legally grown in the United States because the D.E.A. refuses to grant farmers and entrepreneurs the required permit, Number 225, which would allow the licensee to "manufacture" a "controlled substance." The D.E.A. has never granted these permits." [18]
  3. ^ According to Purdue researchers in 2002, "In the US, a substantial trade in hemp products has developed, based on imports of hemp fiber, grain, and oil. The American agricultural community has observed this, and has had success at the state level in persuading legislators of the advisability of experimental hemp cultivation as a means of evaluating the wisdom of re-establishing American hemp production." [6]



  1. ^ a b Ethan Jacobs (May 27, 2016), "'Harvesting Liberty' Shines a Light on the Massive Potential for Legal Hemp – Federal law still bans the cultivation of hemp even though demand has never been higher and farmers have never been high.", Inverse
  2. ^ Hopkins 2015, p. 13.
  3. ^ History of hemp in Kentucky, Kentucky Department of Agriculture, 2016, retrieved 2016-11-21
  4. ^ "Courthouse lawn, US 127, Danville", Kentucky Historical Marker Database, Kentucky Historical Society, Marker 1279, archived from the original on 2009-09-12, retrieved 2016-11-21, Kentucky's first recorded hemp crop, 1775, was on Clark's Run Creek, near Danville. Grown by Archibald McNeill, who brought the first seed with him when he located here.
  5. ^ Hopkins 2015, p. 215 "For well over a century, the state was the heart and center of the American hemp industry. Most of the fiber produced in this country grew in Kentucky, and most of the manufactories of domestic hemp were concentrated there."
  6. ^ a b Small & Marcus 2002.
  7. ^ History-making hemp harvest at Henry Clay Estate, WKYT-TV, August 30, 2016
  8. ^ a b c d Jessica Firger (October 23, 2015), "The Great Kentucky Hemp Experiment", Newsweek
  9. ^ April 8th, 1837: Henry Clay Experiments With New Type of Hemp Seed, Hoping to Introduce it in America, The Raab Collection, archived from the original on 2016-11-22
  10. ^ Heidler & Heidler 2010.
  11. ^ H.R. Pattengill (December 19, 1902), "The American hemp industry", Timely Topics, Lansing, Michigan, 7 (16), p. 267
  12. ^ Hopkins 2015, p. 208.
  13. ^ Dewey, Lyster H.; Merrill, Jason L. (October 14, 1916), Hemp hurds as paper-making material, U.S. Department of Agriculture, p. 5, USDA Bulletin 404 – via Internet Archive
  14. ^ a b Economic Considerations for Growing Industrial Hemp: Implications for Kentucky's Farmers and Agricultural Economy (PDF), Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Kentucky, July 2013
  15. ^ Hopkins 2015, pp. 193–208.
  16. ^ a b Farmers sue DEA for right to grow industrial hemp, CNN, October 18, 2007
  17. ^ David P. West, Ph.D. (February 27, 1998), Hemp and Marijuana: Myths & Realities, North American Industrial Hemp Council
  18. ^ a b Shepherd 1999.
  19. ^ Catherine V. Moore (July 20, 2016), "Can Industrial Hemp Save Kentucky's Small Farms?", Yes!
  20. ^ a b "Kentucky farmers quitting tobacco, turning to unlikely new crop", PBS Newshour, October 17, 2015
  21. ^ Clarke & Merlin 2013, p. 239.
  22. ^ Ballanco 1995.
  23. ^ "Hemp bill (Senate Bill 50) passes", Lane Report, Lexington, Kentucky, March 27, 2013
  24. ^ Robin Roenker (January 2016), "Industrial hemp returns to Kentucky", Kentucky Living, archived from the original on 2016-02-07
  25. ^ Gregory A. Hall (February 17, 2014), "Kentucky announces 5 hemp pilot projects", The Courier-Journal – via USA Today
  26. ^ a b Charles Mason (October 14, 2016), "State expects hemp program to grow", Bowling Green Daily News
  27. ^ Austin Ramsey (February 14, 2016), "Farmers eye hemp pilot program" (PDF), Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer – via Paducah Sun[ permanent dead link]
  28. ^ Matt Combs (November 27, 2017), "Year closes on first public industrial hemp grown in decades", The Register-Herald, Raleigh County, West Virginia
  29. ^ Bruce SCHREINER (November 28, 2018), McConnell's year-end wish: Getting Congress to legalize hemp, Associated Press
  30. ^ Hemp's future hazy as U.S. crop, Associated Press, August 23, 2016 – via Toledo Blade
  31. ^ Nicholas Bergin (November 3, 2016), "UNL launches hemp research", Journal-Star, Lincoln, Nebraska
  32. ^ Mary Esch (October 3, 2016), American hemp farms take root under state pilot programs, Associated Press – via The Cannabist
  33. ^ Joseph Paul (August 8, 2015), "A field day at Purdue University's first hemp farm", Indianapolis Star
  34. ^ John Reid (November 21, 2016), "Milestone: Hemp crop harvested in Virginia for 1st time in decades", Richmond Times-Dispatch – via The Cannabist
  35. ^ Katie Pratt (May 13, 2015), "UK plants hemp research plots", UK AgNews, University of Kentucky
  36. ^ "Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program" (official website). Kentucky Department of Agriculture. 2016. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  37. ^ Paresh Dave (May 27, 2014), "After DEA approves hemp seed import, Kentucky plants a landmark crop", The Los Angeles Times
  38. ^ Missy Baxter (June 5, 2014), "Is DEA Dazed & Confused Over Industrial Hemp? The Department of Agriculture needs hemp seeds for critical research. Why is the DEA trying to stop them?", Rolling Stone
  39. ^ Brad Haire (March 15, 2016), "New hemp harvester can reach medicinally valued top flower", Southeast Farm Press
  40. ^ First legal 500-acre hemp farm in Kentucky unveiled, WKYT, September 30, 2017
  41. ^ LISA AUTRY (January 5, 2017), Record Number of Kentucky Hemp Crops Expected in 2017, WKYU-FM
  42. ^ State industrial hemp statues, National Conference of State Legislatures, August 19, 2016
  43. ^ Cheryl Kaiser and Christy Cassady (September 2015), Industrial hemp–legal issues (PDF), University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and EnvironmentCS1 maint: Uses authors parameter ( link)
  44. ^ "Hemp is officially legalized with President Trump's signature on farm bill", The Boston Globe, December 20, 2018
  45. ^ "The Ananda Difference | Ananda Hemp". Ananda Hemp. Retrieved 2017-10-04.
  46. ^ Janet Patton (June 15, 2016), "California firm to process hemp at Winchester research center", Herald-Leader, Lexington
  47. ^ CDA Announces Colorado's Inaugural Hemp "Certified Seed" (press release), Colorado Department of Agriculture, November 29, 2016
  48. ^ Blair Miller (November 29, 2016), Colorado Dept. of Agriculture certifies 3 hemp seed varieties for cultivation, KMGH-TV News
  49. ^ Colorado hemp industry moves ahead after seed certification, Marijuana Business Daily, November 30, 2016


Further reading

External links