House ag committee to consider hemp farming bill

WEYBRIDGE — A bill that could pave the way for the Vermont Secretary of Agriculture to develop a procedure for issuing licenses to farmers interested in growing industrial hemp was discussed at the legislative breakfast in Weybridge last Monday, April 15.
The bill, H.490, is in the House Agriculture Committee. Local Reps. Harvey Smith, R-New Haven, and Will Stevens, I-Shoreham, are members of that committee.
Smith said at the breakfast last week that he believes the bill is worth studying, though he cautioned that the federal government prohibits the growth and cultivation of hemp — a cousin of the marijuana plant. But hemp does not contain the same abundance of THC (the “high” producing ingredient) and is one of the world’s most versatile plants that can be used for the making of clothing and other useful items. American farmers have not been allowed to grow hemp since 1937. Canadian farmers currently have that right, noted Smith.
“Hemp is a crop and has a lot of good agricultural qualities for food, fiber, pharmaceuticals and a lot of other things,” Smith said.
Sen. Chris Bray, D-New Haven, is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. He spoke of current efforts at the federal level to allow farmers to grow industrial hemp. He said U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has written to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency asking why it has yet to issue a hemp growing permit in the 10 years it has had a licensing program. Bray said the feds must also make a more clear distinction between hemp and marijuana.
Lawmakers, however, remain dubious about the success of state or federal legislative efforts to clear hemp as a legal crop.
“I don’t think we are going to see farmers growing hemp any time in the near future,” Smith said. “But we will put pressure on Washington to make some changes in national legislation that would allow cultivation.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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