MONTPELIER, Vt. – In June, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin signed Senate Bill 157 (S157) into law legalizing hemp cultivation, nullifying the federal prohibition on growing the crop.
Industrial hemp falls under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970. It technically remains legal to grow industrial hemp, but farmers must obtain a permit from the DEA, a nearly impossible feat. The new state law opens the door for Vermont farmers to grow it anyway.
Hemp is an agricultural product which may be grown as a crop, produced, possessed, and commercially traded in Vermont pursuant to the provisions of this chapter. The cultivation of hemp shall be subject to and comply with the requirements of the accepted agricultural practices adopted under section 4810 of this title.
The new Vermont law requires hemp farmers to register with the state and allows for state inspections. It also stipulates the THC level (the active ingredient in hemp’s cousin, marijuana) must remain below .03 percent. The registration process will also include a disclosure statement letting the farmer know hemp production violates federal law – essentially a “buyer beware” provision.
“The reason we want to push for a change is that hemp is potentially a valuable crop,” Rep. Caroline Partridge, chairwoman of the Vermont House Committee on Agriculture and Forest Products told the Huffington Post. “People want to grow it. Hemp oil is a valuable product, and there’s so much of the hemp plant that can be used for very, very productive purposes.”
Industrial hemp has literally thousands of uses, including production of paper, clothing, cosmetics, construction materials, automobile parts and foods. It also has incredible potential as a biofuel.
According to Vote Hemp, Vermont was the ninth state to pass a law removing barriers to hemp production. Other states include Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington and West Virginia, although many of these states stipulate the feds must lift their ban before hemp production can begin. Vermont joins Colorado in taking things to the next level, essentially thumbing their noses at the federal prohibition. In fact, growers in Colorado have reportedly planted a hemp crop on leased land.
“Vermont and Colorado show the way forward,” Tenth Amendment Center national communications director Mike Maharrey said. “There is no question that the feds have no authority to ban a plant within a state’s borders. Doubt me? Ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to prohibit alcohol production. If enough states legalize hemp and farmers simply start producing it, the feds won’t be able to do a thing about it. Especially when markets begin developing and people see the incredible economic potential of this crop. Washington will either relent and repeal its ridiculous ban, or the so-called law will just wither on the vine like the federal prohibition of medical marijuana is doing now.”
In fact, the market already exists in the U.S. Several car manufacturers use hemp panels in their production – hemp imported from China and Canada. More than half of Canada’s hemp crop flows into the United States.
“There’s something wrong here, it’s crazy. Why are we the only industrialized country where you can’t grow it legally? Hell, we need to get in the 21st Century,” former Kentucky state senator and hemp advocate Joey Pendleton said.
Vermont farmer John Vitko told the Huffington Post he wants to grow a small hemp crop for chicken feed and bedding.
“It’s one of the few things that are manageable for a small farmer to handle,” he said, pointing out that it doesn’t require large equipment to plant and harvest like corn does. “It’s complete protein. It has all their amino acids. It’s a seed which birds like.”
And Vitko seemed unconcerned about possible federal enforcement of its hemp ban.
“I’m going to be a little farmer that’s growing hemp, they’ve got bigger problems than me.”
But in the words of the Tenth Amendment Center slogan: Concordia res parvae crescunt – Small things grow great by concord.