A Gold Rush mentality has erupted across Chesapeake Bay states as the lacy fan-shaped leaves of more than 50,000 acres of industrial hemp spring from the landscape for the first time since World War II.

Bay states and the federal government are removing barriers to growing the misunderstood plant, which was a staple crop from Colonial times and then banned for little more than its likeness to a mind-altering cousin, marijuana.

Now, hemp is again being embraced amid bold claims that include a possible economic life preserver for struggling farmers and an environmentally friendly cash crop that could help reduce nutrient pollution in the Bay.

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