Legalizing hemp in Tennessee
"The hemp clothing - you can't wear it out...." Amber Keirn is what you might call a hemp expert.
What started as a hobby... "We started with hemp necklaces... just making them. And we said -- this is so easy a Monkey could do it!" Turned into a business -- aptly named, Hemp Monkey.
But their profitable plant is often associated with another.
Amber Keirn, Hemp Monkey, "Hemp and marijuana are two different plants. They are cousins they do not have the same qualities. Ones used for its fibers and its oils, the other's used for ,well, you know what its used for"
Sen. Frank Niceley, (R) Strawberry Plains, "Its not marijuana, you can't smoke it. But you can make 1000's of products from it. And we import about half a billion dollars of it a year."
Dollars, Senator Frank Nicely believes could benefit Tennessee farmers.
"Why not? Its not against the law to own it. Its not against the law to import it from China or Canada. Its just illegal for a farmer to grow it."
Hemp became illegal after World War 2 due to competition, and its association with the marijuana plant.
But in recent years, states have fought to change that Kentucky legislators just passed a law to legalize industrial hemp farming. A farmer, himself, Senator Nicely is watching our northern neighbor closely. "Sometimes its easy to use those other states for model legislation. If it works there, it might work here." With a little research, he says he may draft legislation in the future.
Rather than importing hemp, the Hemp Monkey crew would prefer to buy local, and supports the idea. So long as it means few restrictions. "If people will leave it alone and let it be natural and not synthesize it, we've got it made, we've got one heck of a product."
Even if Tennessee passes a law to legalize hemp, it is still illegal on the federal level.
Senator Nicely says if states can legalize marijuana, it's possible to get the same consideration for hemp.