RICHMOND, Va. (Jan. 26, 2016) – Today, the Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill to authorize the farming, and production of industrial hemp in the state for commercial purposes, setting the foundation for further action. The vote was 98-0.
Introduced by Del. Brenda Pogge (R-Norge), House Bill 699 (HB699) would amend current state law on hemp and create a framework so that hemp businesses/processors and hemp farmers can proceed with business plans.
As noted in the impact statement from the Department of Planning and Budget, the bill would also require the Board of Agriculture and Consumer Services to “adopt regulations as necessary to license persons to grow and process industrial hemp for any purpose.” [emphasis added]
Under the Code of Virginia, § 3.2-4113 – as passed into law in 2015 – authorizes the state to issue licenses to farm and produce hemp for research purposes only under the Federal Farm Bill of 2014. If passed into law, HB699 would broaden the scope of hemp in the state to include the commercial “manufacture of industrial hemp products.” The bill would require creation of a licensure and renewal, including the establishment of any fees not to exceed $250, to allow a person to grow industrial hemp in the Commonwealth for any lawful purpose.
If passed, the new law would read, in part:
No person licensed pursuant to § 3.2-4115 or 3.2-4117 shall be prosecuted under § 18.2-247, 18.2-248, 18.2-248.01, 18.2-248.1, 18.2-250, or18.2-250.1 for the possession, cultivation or manufacture of industrial hemp plant material and seeds or industrial hemp products.
HB699 would take a first step toward establishing an independent hemp policy in Virginia and would create a foundation for future action.
Virginia Industrial Hemp Coalition founder and executive director Jason Amatucci called it a historic bill.
“This will make Virginia one of the leaders in being ‘Open for Hemp Business’ very soon. It will take 3-5 years to get the hemp industry really up and going and this is yet another great step.”
FEDERAL FARM BILL
Early in 2014, President Barack Obama signed a new farm bill into law, which included a provision allowing a handful of states to begin limited research programs growing hemp. The “hemp amendment”
…allows State Agriculture Departments, colleges and universities to grow hemp, defined as the non-drug oil-seed and fiber varieties of Cannabis, for academic or agricultural research purposes, but it applies only to states where industrial hemp farming is already legal under state law.
Current federal law authorizes the farming of hemp – by research institutions only, for research only. Farming for commercial purposes by individuals and businesses remains prohibited. HB699 sets a stage that could eventually lead development of a hemp industry despite federal prohibition.
Passage of HB699 would take a small set toward setting the stage to nullify the federal hemp ban in practice. Virginia would join with other states – including Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, Connecticut, Maine, North Dakota and Vermont – that have simply ignored federal prohibition and legalized industrial hemp production within their state borders.
Farmers in SE Colorado started harvesting the plant in 2013, and farmers in Vermont began harvesting in 2014, effectively nullifying federal restrictions on such agricultural activities. On Feb. 2 of last year, the Oregon hemp industry officially opened for business and one week later, the first license went to a small non-profit group. As more people engage in hemp production and the market grows within these states, more people will become emboldened creating an exponential wave, ultimately nullifying the federal ban in effect.
HUGE MARKET FOR HEMP
According to a 2005 Congressional Research Service report, the U.S. is the only developed nation that hasn’t developed an industrial hemp crop for economic purposes.
Experts suggest that the U.S. market for hemp is around $600 million per year. They count as many as 25,000 uses for industrial hemp, including food, cosmetics, plastics and bio-fuel. The U.S. is currently the world’s #1 importer of hemp fiber for various products, with China and Canada acting as the top two exporters in the world.
During World War II, the United States military relied heavily on hemp products, which resulted in the famous campaign and government-produced film, “Hemp for Victory!”.
HB699 represents an essential first step toward hemp freedom in the state of Virginia.
HB699 now moves to the Senate, where it will first be assigned to a committee for further consideration.
If you live in Virginia: For action steps to help get this bill passed click HERE.
For other states: Take action to push back against hemp prohibition HERE.