Posted February 2, 2015
A House panel passed legislation that would allow industrial hemp to be grown in Virginia, according to a Richmond Times Dispatch article available here. Go Dan River also published an article available hereand WVTF here.
“If you look at the potential economic advantages that industrial hemp would provide for the state, particularly the Southside and the Southwest, it could be an economic boon in terms of the amount of research we could do on it,” said Del. Joseph R. Yost, R-Giles, the measure’s sponsor.
House Bill 1277, which passed by a 13-7 vote, would direct the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to establish an industrial hemp research program and relevant regulations in the commonwealth.
Last year, the Farm Bill allowed universities and state Departments of Agriculture to grow hemp for research purposes, according to Go Dan River.
“One acre of industrial hemp produces the same amount of paper pulp that 4 acres of forest does. Industrial hemp production would create jobs and economic development, particularly in rural areas in Virginia. Should federal regulations allow for commercial production in the future, this bill would ensure that we are ready to move forward in Virginia,” said Yost.
Bryan Porter, commonwealth’s attorney in Alexandria, said the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys does not oppose the aims of the bill but is concerned with its impact on law enforcement agencies, according to Richmond Times Dispatch.
“The way industrial hemp is designed in the bill, it refers to a particular level of THC and says that anyone who is a licensed grower and possesses industrial hemp cannot be prosecuted for the possession of marijuana,” said Porter.
“Prosecutors are concerned that this might have an effect on the backdoor unintended consequence of legalizing marijuana.”
Tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly referred to as THC, is the psychoactive component of marijuana and hemp. Under federal law, industrial hemp in the U.S. cannot contain a THC amount higher than 0.3 percent. The average THC concentration in recreational marijuana for is 5 percent or higher.
“You don’t get high from industrial hemp,” said Yost.
Jim Politus is a former farmer and member of the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors, according to WVTF.
“When you compare hemp to cotton you have about 2 and a-half times the yield, half the water needs, no pesticides, so that will help areas like Danville,” said Politus.
The bill is sponsored by Pearisburg delegate Joseph Yost, and if passed, would allow hemp research by State Universities such as Virginia Tech and Virginia State University possibly by 2016.
For more information, a recent report on hemp as an agricultural commodity from the Congressional Research Service is available on the National Agricultural Law Center’s websitehere.