Republican Congressman Thomas Massie is a man on a mission, and that mission is to get farmers in his home state of Kentucky and across the nation growing hemp again. Massie is a staunch libertarian with a disdain for intrusive federal regulation, and his Industrial Hemp Farming Act would chip off a bit of federal power by allowing cultivation of industrial hemp in the United States.
While Massie himself is something of an outsider in the Republican Party, having voted twice against John Boehner for Speaker of the House, this particular cause is moving further into the mainstream. His new bill boasts 47 co-sponsors*, forming a surprising coalition of lawmakers from both parties and suggesting there could be a groundswell of support for allowing marijuana's strait-laced cousin back into American fields.
Industrial hemp can be made into a variety of products, including paper, food, clothing, and cosmetics. It does not contain enough of marijuana's psychoactive ingredient, THC, to get anyone high from smoking it. Rep. Massie has taken to tweeting about the bill with the hashtag #ThinkRopeNotDope.
Massie's work on hemp has attracted support from such far-removed corners of Congress that its co-sponsors include both liberal Democrat Keith Ellison of Minnesota and conservative Republican Don Young of Alaska; the Senate companion bill has been introduced by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul (both fellow Kentuckians), along with Oregon Democrats Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley. With all that bipartisan good feeling, a bill legalizing hemp is shaping up to be one of the best chances to unite an ideologically-divided Congress in 2015.
*Correction, Jan. 22, 2015: This post originally misstated the number of co-sponsors of Massie's bill.