Today, the U.S. Senate passed, on a bipartisan 86-11 vote, legislation that includes Virginia priorities championed by U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA).
Specifically, the 2018 Senate Farm Bill includes a Warner-Kaine sponsored measure to legalize industrial hemp production, a crop which is already cultivated for research purposes in Virginia but which the agriculture industry cannot currently grow for commercial use.
“This bipartisan bill would finally end an outdated ban that has held farmers back from participating in the industrial hemp market, allow states to decide the best way to regulate this emerging industry, and give farmers access to critical federal support to protect their investment. Legalizing industrial hemp production will bring new businesses to Virginia and create jobs,” said the Senators. “In addition, this legislation includes measures to continue successful Chesapeake Bay clean-up efforts, expand farm conservation, and preserve some of our most cherished public lands.”
The 2014 Farm Bill authorized industrial hemp to be made available for agricultural research purposes. Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the University of Virginia, and James Madison University have been active in hemp research in recent years. However, Congress must act in order to legalize hemp production for commercial purposes. Hemp is distinct from marijuana in that it has a miniscule concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and thus no narcotic capability. The plant is estimated to be used in more than 25,000 products spanning agriculture, textiles, recycling, automotive, furniture, food, nutrition, beverages, paper, construction materials, and personal care.
Warner and Kaine’s priorities for Virginia in the 2018 Farm Bill include:
- Hemp Farming Act: a bill that would remove hemp from the federal list of controlled substances, allowing Virginia farmers to grow and sell the plant as an agricultural commodity. States would be given authority to regulate hemp, and hemp researchers will be able to apply for USDA grants. Hemp farmers would also be eligible to collect crop insurance under this provision. [Read More @Augusta Free Press]