Vermont Hemp Bill Passes Legislature, Heads to Governor

industrial hemp

MONTPELIER, VT — Perhaps overshadowed by the passage of a bill decriminalizing marijuana possession in the state, another bill that would modify Vermont’s law permitting the growth of hemp by farmers was passed by both chambers of the Vermont legislature Monday just prior to the legislature adjourning for the year.

Once signed by the governor, Senate Bill 157  will modify the requirements for hemp production in the state of Vermont, which was authorized in 2008 but has not yet been implemented due to a federal ban on the cultivation of the crop.

The bill will remove language from the 2008 law which states that Vermont farmers can grow hemp “when federal regulations permit.”  Instead, the Vermont Secretary of Agriculture can begin issuing licenses to grow hemp to farmers, but will be required to inform them that the cultivation of hemp may be in violation the federal Controlled Substances Act.

Farmers would assume the risk of federal prosecution for growing hemp in violation of federal law, which could include criminal penalties, property forfeiture, and loss of federal agricultural benefits including loans, conservation programs, and insurance.

The bill also removes the wording “industrial” from all language of the law, referring to the crop as “hemp” instead of “industrial hemp”, and specifically defines “hemp” as any cannabis plant containing less than .3 percent THC.The bill gives the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets authority over hemp licencing.  Under Vermont law, farmers must be licensed by the state to grow hemp.

Vermont is one of ten states that have made the cultivation of industrial hemp legal, but none of these states have begun to grow the crop due to resistance from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

Currently, the Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Administration prohibit the growth of industrial hemp in the United States, but legislation is pending in Congress to once again allow the commercial production of hemp in the US.  Bills to allow the cultivation of hemp have been introduced in several states this year.

Hemp products can legally be sold in the United States, but the hemp must be imported from other countries.

Over thirty countries produce industrial hemp, including Australia, Austria, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey and Ukraine.  The world’s leader in hemp production is China.

Hemp use archaeologically dates back to the Neolithic Agein China, with hemp fiber imprints found on Yangshao culture pottery dating from the 5th century BC.  Historians estimate that hemp was first cultivated by humans about 12,000 years ago.