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Eyewitness News Special Report: Hemp:The New Cash Cow?

Before it was outlawed in 1970, Kentucky was the largest producer of hemp in the United States and the bluegrass crop could be making a come back. Supporters say it could mean a major economic boost - not only for Kentucky but for the whole country.

"It has really, totally changed the life of a small farmer - that would be me," said Farmer Paul Glover.

Hancock County Kentucky farmer Paul Glover drives the hills of his farm every day. On one of those trips, he realized he needed to change his direction.

"I found out that I could not make enough money making vegetables," said Glover.

In 2014,  Glover signed up for a pilot program in Kentucky to grow and produce, industrial hemp. It was then he realized the true potential in his little plants.

Kentucky US Senator and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calls hemp a foundational part of the commonwealth's heritage.

"It was really big in the previous century," said US Senator McConnell "in those days they turned it into rope."

"As a matter of fact at one time it was the leading producer," said Bill Thompson of Daviess Co Sheriffs Dept - "the state of Kentucky was the leading producer of hemp in the United States."

In 2014, McConnell added a provision to the Farm Bill to let Kentucky farmers like Glover grow industrial hemp for research. That pilot program brought in more than 16 million dollars for Kentucky farmers.

"Now we are going to try and take the next step to legalize hemp, have it regulated at the state level and get American farmers into the business of producing a product that is all around us already but imported from other countries," said US Senator McConnell.

The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 would remove hemp from the Drug Enforcement Administrations list of controlled substances. The legislation would open the door for Glovers Mile Marker 5 CBD oil business to grow even further.

"Cannabis - they think of Colorado well I got news, Kentucky is jumping up and becoming one of the top-rated states in the nation for production of industrial hemp," said Glover.

Though Mile Marker 5 uses their industrial hemp to make CBD oil, the legislation could open up doors for many other industries.

"You can build houses, make car parts, use it with resin-based products that use anything with fibers that interlock to help strengthen it - the use is unlimited, " said Glover.

"Early indications are that it could really be something, said US Senator Mitch McConnell "it's an incredibly diversified plant that can end up in your food, could end up in your car dashboard, it could end up in your medicine."

If the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 was legalized, the similarity of hemp to its illicit cousin marijuana would create obstacles for law enforcement.

"It's my understanding that the texture and the smell are going to be just like marijuana," said Thompson.

Thompson says the only way to tell the difference between the two plants is to test the plant for percentage levels of THC -- a test that does not yet exist.

"Our hope is of course, that the people who manufacture these field tests can make adjustments to their field test kits where we can distinguish quantitatively if it's .03% or less," said Thompson.

"In every county, there will be a list of those who are legally growing it and if local law enforcement people want to go out and make sure it's not the other plant they will know where it is," said US Senator Mitch McConnell.

For farmer Glover, his daily trips up his hill seem worthwhile as he believes he is on the cusp of something great.

"Everything is blowing up in this industry -- I'm happier than a pig in poo" said Glover.

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(This story was originally published May 16, 2018)


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