Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who will be a top Democratic target in 2020 when he runs for reelection, won a big legislative victory when he succeeded in passing a bill that makes hemp a legal agricultural commodity, removing it from the federal list of controlled substances, McClatchy Newspapers reports. President Trump is expected to sign the bill soon. The Kentucky Republican Party has already created a potential blueprint for a campaign ad: A Rushmore-like scene of McConnell and other hemp advocates, including Sen. Rand Paul, superimposed over a field of hemp.
Hemp is a popular issue for McConnell, particularly now that members of Congress no longer have local projects obtained through so-called “earmarks” to tout, said Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report. Kentucky farmers hit hard by the downturn in tobacco are a “constituency he’s been trying to help.” she said, and hemp “is a good issue for him.” To law and order advocates, McConnell made the case that hemp was entirely distinct from marijuana, which he dubbed hemp’s “illicit cousin.”