A farmer in North Dakota is poised to become the nation's first licensed industrial hemp farmer pending approval from the DEA. North Dakota is among the seven states, including Kentucky, that have authorized industrial hemp farming. The plant is used to make an amazing array of products because of its sturdy fibers. If the farmer in North Dakota is approved, that may mean that Kentucky farmers might have a new cash crop, and regain some former glory.
According to a historical marker located near the entrance to the Maysville Community College on US 68, Maysville has a hempy past. It reads: "The only major hemp-producing Ky. county outside the Blue Grass area. The 1810 crop income was $70,000. Maysville second to Louisville in finished hemp products, 1830s. Nicholas Arthur's factory, using horsepower, was one of several ropewalks, long buildings for spiral winding of hemp fibers. It processed yearly 600,000 lbs. of rope worth $41,000. See over."
The other side reads: "Hemp in Kentucky - First crop grown, 1775. From 1840 to 1860, Ky.'s production largest in U.S. Peak in 1850 was 40,000 tons, with value of $5,000,000. Scores of factories made twine, rope, gunny sacks, bags for cotton picking and marketing. State's largest cash crop until 1915. Market lost to imported jute, freed of tariff. As war measure, hemp grown again during World War II. See over."
The controversy over growing hemp is that it is very similar to marijuana, especially in appearance. While hemp doesn't have any of marijuana's hallucinogenic properties, law enforcement officials fear that it may be used to hide the illegal growing of marijuana plants.
Ahem, apparently that appears to be a Kentucky tradition as well. Two states from our great country have the dubious honor of being in the top five global producers of marijuana. One of them is California (any surprise there?) and the second is... you guessed it, Kentucky. This may be because hemp grows all over the state. You can even find hemp along interstate highways.
Bluegrass isn't the only kind of grass Kentucky exports.