For years, I’ve led the fight in Washington to restore one of Kentucky’s most historically vital crops by legalizing industrial hemp. I am proud to be a leading voice for the hemp industry, including championing legislation, testifying before the Kentucky legislature and advocating for Kentucky farmers in Washington.

When I first began my fight to legalize industrial hemp in 2012 as the lead Republican co-sponsor of the first-ever hemp bill in the Senate, it wasn’t an issue many people were talking about, let alone supporting, at the time.

The legalization of industrial hemp held great promise for Kentucky farmers, and I wasn’t going to allow Washington bureaucrats to stand in the way. So, for the past nine years I’ve led the charge to deregulate and legalize this crop, and I’m still fighting for Kentucky hemp farmers.

Despite our success in legalizing hemp, some problems still exist. I recently visited Russellville to speak with community leaders. I spoke with a local hemp farmer who expressed the challenge of the current definition of hemp. Since plants grow at variable rates, sometimes a plant may exceed the legal limits of a chemical called THC. The current law forces the farmer to destroy, burn and waste a large percentage of his crop.

To fix this problem, I reintroduced the HEMP Act, which would amend the definition of hemp from 0.3% THC to 1% THC. Instead of testing the hemp flower or plant itself, the bill would allow for testing of hemp-derived products, which would solve many of the problems hemp farmers are facing.

Government bureaucrats might be fine with wasting things; it’s what they do best. But Kentucky hemp farmers rely on the crops they produce as a source of income and are essentially forced to burn money on a regular basis if their crop is even slightly above the 0.3% THC level, which in terms of THC content is quite low.

The government would have you believe the solution is in controlling the crop itself. Well, rather than controlling plants, my common-sense solution, the HEMP Act, would create transparency and certainty.

The HEMP Act would clearly define a margin of error in hemp testing and amend the definition of hemp to a more reasonable THC content. It would provide real solutions to help all hemp farmers and processors, including those in my home state of Kentucky.

Additionally, to help prevent legal hemp from being seized during transport, my bill would allow hemp shipments to be accompanied by one of two easily accessible types of documentation.

The transporter can carry a copy of the farmer’s hemp license or other authorization issued by the state department of agriculture or the U.S. Department of Agriculture, depending on whether the state has its own hemp plan or if they’re using a USDA plan.

Or, to help hemp processors ship their goods, transporters can carry a copy of a lab certificate showing the hemp is within the legal limit.

Year after year, I’ve introduced and co-sponsored legislation and spoken out loudly in support of legalizing hemp, allowing for more research of hemp and ultimately removing this crop from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of Schedule I drugs.

The last thing hemp farmers need are more regulations, fees, taxes and bureaucracy. This hurts not only farmers, but also consumers, and now creates a situation in which government bureaucrats are regulating and controlling hemp farmers’ livelihoods all across the United States.

This legislation will not only help this growing industry reach its full economic potential, but also remove excessive government regulations. I’m proud to be putting forward real solutions to help Kentucky hemp farmers and processors.

I promise to keep fighting for you and, as always, put Kentucky first.

You can read the Op-Ed HERE.