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Mt. Vernon starts growing hemp as tribute to Washington's original farming plans

Hemp was harvested on George Washington's historic estate, Mount Vernon, on Wednesday for the first time in centuries.

According to NPR, horticulturalists at the estate partnered with the University of Virginia to plant the crop centuries after Washington had hemp planted in the region. In the 1760s, the former president grew the crop across his entire farm and viewed hemp to be possibly more profitable than tobacco. 

"To bring this crop back it just really helps complete our agricultural story," the director of horticulture at Mount Vernon, Dean Norton, told NPR.

Though the federal government considers the crop a controlled substance, Mount Vernon was able to harvest the crop due to a provision in the 2014 Farm Bill, the news outlet reported. The provision allows states to harvest hemp for research purposes as long as its harvested in limited supply. 

The particular type of hemp harvested on Washington's estate is also used for creating products like rope and cloth, not for smoking marijuana. 

The news arrives months after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced legislation that would legalize hemp as an agricultural product. 

"Hemp has played a foundational role in Kentucky's agriculture heritage, and I believe that it can be an important part of our future," McConnell said at the time. 

If approved, the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 would legalize the crop and remove it from the federal list of controlled substances, which would allow it to be sold as an agricultural commodity.

Brian Walden, a farmer who refers to himself as a "hemp patriot," was reportedly behind the push to bring back the crop. 

Walden hoped harvesting hemp at Mount Vernon would help give the public a new perception of the crop.  

"And [get] the message across that this is an innocuous plant that has real benefits and our Founding Fathers knew that and they planted it," Walden told NPR.

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