A new bill introduced into the Virginia General Assembly would authorize the growing and production of industrial hemp within the state within the guidelines, but unfortunately falls short of nullifying any unconstitutional federal laws.

Introduced by Rep. Joseph R. Yost in July and pending a committee referral, HB 1277 directs the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to adopt regulations and establishes an industrial hemp research program through a Virginia Industrial Hemp Program Fund.

The new commissioner, according to the bill, would “promote research into and the development of industrial hemp, and commercial markets for Virginia industrial hemp and hemp products,” making a report to the General Assembly by Nov. 1, 2015, and annually from thereon out on the status and progress of the industrial hemp research program.

This year, 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 new “hemp amendment”

…allows State Agriculture Departments, colleges and universities to grow hemp, defined as the non-drug oilseed 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.

While this bill is a step in the right direction, there are several aspects of the bill that could be improved upon.

For example, it does not take retake powers from the feds that the hemp amendment didn’t pretend to “give” back, thereby submitting to unconstitutional federal authority. The bill text also states that it does not “authorize any person to violate any federal law or regulation,” and that if any section conflicts with federal law “the federal provision shall control to the extent of the conflict.”

Five states – Colorado, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont, and South Carolina– have passed hemp laws that go the distance, effectively nullifying all bans on growing industrial hemp.

A section of the text from the South Carolina bill, for example, allows people to grow hemp for any reason they want, providing it is legal.

It reads as follows:

“It is lawful for an individual to cultivate, produce, or otherwise grow industrial hemp in this State to be used for any lawful purpose, including, but not limited to, the manufacture of industrial hemp products, and scientific, agricultural, or other research related to other lawful applications for industrial hemp.”

This is the kind of language we want to see in the Virginia bill.

With your help, we can make it happen.


For Your State: Take action in your state to push legislators to introduce and support bills to legalize hemp farming by clicking HERE

TJ Martinell

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