Oregon’s Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley are teaming up with two unlikely allies — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul — on a piece of legislation. The Democrats and Republicans don’t often agree, but they’re working together to push the Hemp Legalization Act of 2018, to legalize and clearly define hemp as an agricultural commodity and remove it from the list of controlled substances.
That legislation has been included in the latest version of the Senate’s Farm Bill. Wyden sat down with OPB “Weekend Edition” host John Notarianni to discuss the bill. He said hemp is still a controlled substance, despite lacking the psychoactive properties of marijuana.
“If somebody tried to smoke hemp, the only thing they’d be doing is wasting their lighter fluid,” Wyden said.
He believes legalizing hemp could be a big opportunity for job growth in Oregon. “We have several hundred farmers who are interested in this,” he said.
It’s not only Oregon farmers interested in growing and selling hemp. Farmers in Kentucky latched onto the opportunity as well.
“All of a sudden we had a bipartisan coalition, with two states with lots of farmers who are really interested in this,” Wyden said.
While Wyden is optimistic the Farm Bill will pass the Senate, he’s worried that a competing version of the bill that passed the House this week could be difficult to reconcile.
“I am very troubled by the House provisions that really assault the hunger programs in America,” Wyden said. “The House really goes on a bender in terms of opposing the important hunger programs. That will be our big challenge.”
Listen to the full conversation by using the audio player at the top of this story.