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Senators Warner and Kaine Support Legislation to Legalize Hemp

Virginia Senators Warner and Kaine have both signed on to legislation to legalize and clearly define hemp as an agricultural commodity and remove it from the list of controlled substances.

Virginia has a long history of growing hemp, going back to Thomas Jefferson, but it became illegal in 1937, when it was lumped into marijuana as a dangerous drug.

But today, Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine both signed onto a bipartisan bill to legalize hemp and clearly define it as an agricultural commodity, removing it from a list of controlled commodities.

“The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 will allow take a step toward treating hemp as any other agricultural commodity,” said Erin Williams, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, who has been coordinating Virginia’s hemp research program.

“The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is supportive of removing hemp from the federal controlled substances act. I think this is long overdue legislation and I am very happy to see that Mark Warner and Tim Kaine are endorsing this bill.”

UVA’s Michael Timko has just planted his crops for the year. His is one of four legal university-sponsored research projects to help Virginia farmers grow industrial hemp if and when it becomes legal. “This is going to dramatically change the economic outlook of the United States, since we import over five hundred million dollars worth of hemp-based products from around the world and our farmers should be able to grow industrial hemp and be competitive on a worldwide basis.”

Why is hemp still on the list of controlled substances in the first place?

“It is a misrepresentation by the DEA that all hemp is equivalent and so industrial hemp has no, or very low levels of THC and worldwide industrial help is recognized as something separate from industrial marijuana.”

But will it make law enforcement more difficult?

“I think our farmers understand the difference between agricultural commodities and recreational products. And, instead of looking at it as a crack in the door, it’s looking at it as being put on par with the rest of the world agriculturally. It is very clear that if you wanted to grow recreational marijuana, the last thing you would want to do is to grow it near industrial hemp, because the two plants are cross-fertile and it would decrease the value of your recreational marijuana by lowering the THC levels and it would increase the levels in the industrial hemp which would make it not sellable as an industrial hemp product and so I don’t think you are going to find farmers who are going to be intermingling these crops and thinking they are going to benefit either way. I think they are very separate industries and I think it is very clear that you could regulate an industrial hemp industry like you regulate corn and other products and stop treating individuals like ‘oh, this is a backdoor way to break the law,’ I don’t think that’s how our farmers are thinking about it…I think they are thinking ‘I can’t get good prices from my corn and soybeans anymore, or I can’t grow tobacco in the State of Virginia and get a good price, but there is a lot of opportunity in the automotive industry, in the food industry, in the construction industry to grow hemp-based products and make a good living from it.”

The Virginia General Assembly authorized the current research projects now underway at four universities, and just this year, expanded that to allow individuals to apply for research permits. That law goes into effect July 1st.