Hemp is used to make clothing, paper and other products, is not ingested and contains virtually no THC, which is the psychoactive part of the cannabis plant. In colonial days, hemp was grown throughout the US, and in fact was required to be grown in states like Virginia where it was needed to make rope for boats. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew hemp on their farms. China is now reported to be the largest producer of hemp, having geared up in the 1970s to make more breathable uniforms for their soldiers in steamy Vietnam.
In the 1930s, timber and nylon scions like DuPont and William Randolph Hearst saw hemp as a potential competitor and reportedly worked with the federal government to make all cannabis byproducts illegal in the US. Nixon doubled down in 1970 with the CSA simply continuing the prior prohibition on everything coming from the plant.
While it’s not clear when a bill will actually be presented to Congress, the AP says McConnell said about hemp, “It’s now time to take the final step and make this a legal crop.” Many think the next move could be to legalize CBD (cannabidiol), which contains many of the medical benefits of cannabis with negligible amounts of THC.