Virginia plants seeds for new hemp industry

RICHMOND, Va. — When people think of hemp, marijuana often comes to mind — because the two plants are varieties of cannabis.

But hemp has a variety of uses, from making textiles and building materials to feeding livestock. The settlers at Jamestown grew hemp. So did George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. In the 1940s, Henry Ford reportedly built a car body of hemp fiber and ran it on hemp oil.

In the 1950s, however, the United States banned hemp because of its association with marijuana. That prohibition has remained in effect — until now.

Virginia soon will legalize the growing of industrial hemp under legislation passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

Licensed growers will be allowed to cultivate industrial hemp as part of a university-managed research program under House Bill 1277, introduced by Republican Del. Joseph Yost of Blacksburg, and Senate Bill 955, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Rosalyn Dance of Petersburg.

PHOTO CREDIT: Adrian Cable / MGN

The new law defines industrial hemp as a species of the cannabis sativa plant with a minimal level of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. It says industrial hemp can have “a concentration of THC that is no greater than that allowed by federal law.” The state law makes it explicitly clear that industrial hemp is not marijuana.

Once the law takes effect in July, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will develop regulations for growing hemp. The industrial hemp research program will be supervised and managed by public institutions of higher education.

The law authorizes the state commissioner of agriculture and consumer to:

  • “Oversee and analyze the growth of industrial hemp by licensed growers”
  • “Conduct seed research on various types of industrial hemp that are best suited to be grown in Virginia”
  • “Study the economic feasibility of developing an industrial hemp market in various types of industrial hemp that can be grown in the Commonwealth”
  • “Report on the estimated value-added benefits, including environmental benefits, to Virginia businesses of an industrial hemp market of Virginia-grown industrial hemp varieties”
  • “Promote research into the development of industrial hemp and commercial markets for Virginia industrial hemp and hemp products”
  • “Study the use of industrial hemp in new energy technologies, including electricity generation, biofuels, or other forms of energy resources”

Yost represents House District 12, which includes the counties of Giles, Pulaski and Montgomery, where Virginia Tech University is located. He has been contacted by farmers interested in growing hemp.

More at Source:  By Sarah Drury