CYNTHIANA, Ky. (WKYT) - Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Cynthiana Saturday for a festival celebrating hemp, a plant that still raises a lot of questions.
"The hemp industry is starting to grow again, so we're really excited," said Tomi Clifford, coordinator of the festival.
Hemp products are surging in popularity, but the plant itself has been in Kentucky for more than two centuries.
"Originally, hemp was planted in 1775 in Danville. It grew for many years and was very successful," said Clifford.
That success came to an end with the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. The law prohibited all cannabis plants, including hemp.
However, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, which means it is no longer an illegal substance under federal law. This legalization has opened the door for entrepreneurs looking to profit from the budding industry.
“Farming, right now, for tobacco, soybeans, corn, and cattle are down, so hemp is like a tool in a toolbox that keeps family farms going,” said Brian Furnish, a hemp farmer.
Although he's increased sales by growing the crop, he still faces challenges.
"People thought I was growing marijuana," said Furnish. "I had to educate people."
Hemp, though, is not marijuana. While it originates from the same plant, cannabis sativa, drug experts say it does not contain enough THC, the ingredient in marijuana that produces a high.
John McDaniel, a pharmacist, believes more should be done to reduce the hemp's stigma. He co-owns 15 pharmacies in Kentucky, all of which sell the hemp product, CBD oil.
"Pain and inflammation are the number one reason people seek us out," said McDaniel.
Clifford explained that the purpose of the festival, called Kentucky Hemp Days, is to inform people of the plant's many beneficial uses.
“The hemp plant can be used for fiber, food, CBD, paper [and more],” said Clifford.