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Is the South ready to say howdy to hemp?

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But after a hemp legalization bill passed the Kentucky Senate on Thursday, it's also becoming clear that age-old suspicions about the plant persist, especially here in a region where states like Georgia just recently ousted "blue laws" that prohibit alcohol sales on Sundays.

The underlying fear is that, given permissive attitudes around pot in other parts of the country, hemp may serve as a kind of Trojan horse for legalization in a region that, given its historic views on vice, doesn't take too kindly to making mind-altering substances available.

"We've heard that you can't get high off of hemp. You can get high off of hemp," warned Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rodney Brewer.

The history of hemp in the South is long, storied, and complex. Virginians Thomas Jefferson and George Washington both sang its praises and cited its usefulness for a young, growing nation in need of raw product to make sails and rope.

But the product became more closely linked to its smokable cousin during the prohibition era and was effectively outlawed in the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. The war effort in the 1940s brought hemp back into production, but it was once again phased out by Washington in 1957.

Since then, the Drug Enforcement Administration has firmly opposed state efforts to legalize it. While technically the DEA can regulate hemp production in the US, it only permits its production for research purposes.

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