Virginia To Shrug Off Federal Industrial Hemp Laws

Industrial hemp in Virginia
Image: BigStock

Last week, a bill was passed by a Virginia state House committee to authorize commercial cultivation and production of industrial hemp in the state.

An important element of the bill is an amendment that would remove the requirement of federal approval for hemp licensing.

U.S. federal law allows programs growing industrial hemp, but with a very narrow focus. The 2014 U.S. Farm Bill only permits cultivation for academic or agricultural research purposes.

The Virginia bill (HB699) was championed by Del. Brenda Pogge (R-Norge). The vote was a resounding ‘yes’ with all 22 committee members voting in favour.

“Good news! My legislation supporting the production of industrial hemp passed out of committee unanimously today,” announced Ms. Pogge via her Facebook account.

” After Congress revises the federal policies governing industrial hemp, Virginia will be prepared to immediately begin commercial cultivation. This pro-business legislation supports job growth in Virginia.”

The Bill’s summary states:

“..that it is lawful for a person with a license to manufacture industrial hemp products or engage in scientific, agricultural, or other research involving the applications of industrial hemp and that no person shall be prosecuted for the possession, cultivation, or manufacture of industrial hemp plant material or products.”

According to the Tenth Amendment Center, HB699 will now go before the House Floor, where it will need to pass by a majority vote in order to then move on to the Senate.

Virginia’s Governor, Terry McAuliffe, signed the Industrial Hemp Production in March last year. However, with the Federal government’s tightened reins, it was impossible for the commercial industrial hemp sector to make a start and only universities could get a look in.

The battle for industrial hemp in Virginia has been a long one. As far back as 1999, the Virginia legislature has supported calls for a revised federal hemp policy; but not the one that became law under the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill.

Prior to the outlawing of industrial hemp cultivation last century, Virginia had a strong hemp sector that dated back to the 1600’s. In fact, at one stage Virginia had laws in place to compel farmers to grow the crop; which was prized for its fiber. Hemp was also used by the state government as currency at one point.