Industrial Hemp Legislation First Pushed By Ron Paul Could Drop in Senate Next Week

Former Rep. Ron Paul pushed the issue on Capitol Hill for years.

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Has Capitol Hill suddenly gone green?

Just a day after Democratic Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado introduced legislation to decriminalize marijuana, Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky introduced another bill Thursday in support of industrial hemp, currently illegal in the U.S. because it comes from the same plant as marijuana.

And now, Sen. Rand Paul's office tells Whispers it could introduce companion legislation in the Senate "as soon as next week."

In late January, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he'd throw his support behind industrial hemp, a surprise endorsement from the long-time opponent of marijuana. McConnell cited conversations he'd had with Paul, and the Huffington Post's Ryan Grim points out the change came after the Kentucky senator hired Jesse Benton to run his 2014 re-election campaign. Benton is the former campaign manager of Paul's father, former Texas congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul.

[READ: Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Hits House]

Bluegrass State libertarians Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. Thomas Massie want to legalize industrial hemp.
Bluegrass State libertarians Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. Thomas Massie want to legalize industrial hemp.

Ron Paul is seen as the father of industrial hemp on Capitol Hill, having first sponsored a bill in the House in the 2005, and then introducing a similar bill every two years for the rest of his tenure. The first bill Paul introduced got 11 cosponsors, and each year the number climbed higher. His last bill, in 2011, had 37 cosponsors.

Vote Hemp, the main group lobbying in Washington for industrial hemp, credits Ron Paul for the sea change on Capitol Hill as well.

A German farmer harvests industrial hemp.
A German farmer harvests industrial hemp.

"Paul set everything in motion. He was the one who came up the Industrial Hemp Farming Act. It is his three-pronged approach," national outreach coordinator for Vote Hemp Tom Murphy tells Whispers.

The bill the younger Paul is set to introduce in the Senate will include the same three-pronged approach—which is to define industrial hemp, remove it from the controlled substances list, and leave regulations up to the states.

And, just as Ron Paul did, the senators getting behind industrial hemp have all emphasized its economic benefits.

[NEWMAN: Obama Tacitly Endorses the Pot Economy]

"The utilization of hemp to produce everything from clothing to paper is real," McConnell said in a statement. "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."

Megan Stiles, a spokeswomen for Ron Paul's political organization Campaign for Liberty, says industrial hemp is just one of many issues Paul started that someone else will finish.

"One of his great legacies was that he was able to bring attention and awareness to so many different issues," she says.

Watch: Kentucky leaders advocate hemp:

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