Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Thursday announced his support for hemp legalization in Kentucky.

"After long discussions with Senator Rand Paul and [Kentucky Agriculture] Commissioner James Comer on the economic benefits of industrialized hemp, I am convinced that allowing its production will be a positive development for Kentucky’s farm families and economy,” he said in a statement.

“Commissioner Comer has assured me that his office is committed to pursuing industrialized hemp production in a way that does not compromise Kentucky law enforcement’s marijuana eradication efforts or in any way promote illegal drug use,” McConnell added. “The utilization of hemp to produce everything from clothing to paper is real and if there is a capacity to center a new domestic industry in Kentucky that will create jobs in these difficult economic times that sounds like a good thing to me.”

Hemp, a name for non-psychoactive varieties of the cannabis plant, is currently considered a controlled substance by the federal government and farmers are prohibited from growing the lucrative crop. The United States imports thousands of products made from industrial hemp every year.

The Kentucky legislature is considering licensing farmers to grow hemp if federal prohibitions are removed. The bill is opposed by some law enforcement groups, who warned the crop is visually indistinguishable from marijuana.

U.S. Reps. John Yarmuth (D) and Thomas Massie (R), along with U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R) and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, plan to testify in support of the legislation.

“Our federal delegation is showing tremendous leadership,” Comer said. “They recognize this is not a partisan issue. It’s about jobs. And we will continue to push forward to make sure Kentucky is first in line for them.”

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[Image via Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons licensed]

[Correction: Article incorrectly identified McConnell as Marjory Leader.]