Manufacturers use hemp in plastics, insulation and even a little paper. Health food lovers eat hemp seeds by the handful for the protein and omega-3 fats. Hemp clothes, shoes and handbags sell for top dollar, prized for durability.
But while hemp fields abound in Canada and Europe, only a few acres of the plant are grown in the U.S. Authorities outlawed the crop a half-century ago because of its affiliation with its high-inducing cousin marijuana, even though the industrial variety contains only trace amounts of the psychoactive chemical THC.
Ten states, including Kentucky, have removed barriers to hemp production, and state Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Fields, wants to bring it back to Tennessee. He's drafting a bill that would legalize it here.