Virginia Delegate Hopes To Legalize Cannabis (Kind Of)

by | Jul 9, 2014 | POLITICS

Virginia Delegate Joseph Yost (R-Blacksburg) plans on introducing legislation later this month for the 2015 legislative session which would legalize hemp farming.

Virginia Delegate Joseph Yost (R-Blacksburg) plans on introducing legislation later this month for the 2015 legislative session which would legalize hemp farming.

The often misunderstood cousin of Mary-Jane has been illegal since the onslaught of the ‘War on Drugs’ era, despite the fact that you could smoke a whole bale full and only get a really bad headache.

“Our goal is to allow it for research purposes but also for private production,” Yost said. “I’ve been meeting with stakeholders and some folks who could provide some insight, including meetings with law enforcement officials in the next few weeks.”

Yost represents the 12th District in the Va. General Assembly, and plans to submit the proposed legislation on the first day of the pre-filing session. He said he anticipates the greatest obstacle to be with law enforcement due to industrial hemp’s position close tie to marijuana.

“After WWII it was placed in the same category as marijuana, and regardless of your opinion on marijuana, they’re not the same thing,” said Yost. “It’s kind of acquired a bad rap because of that in the last few decades.”

Ironically, during WWII the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture ran a “Hemp for Victory” campaign which encouraged farmers to grow hemp to be used for cordage, parachutes and other military necessities.

Farmers who stayed home to grow hemp were even granted draft deferments, and by 1943 American farmers registered in the program harvested 375,000 acres of hemp.

Botanically speaking, marijuana and industrial hemp both fall under the genus Cannabis, but they are almost exact opposites of one another. The Cannabis genus is comprised of plants containing molecular compounds called cannabinoids. Of these, two are most dominant: THC—the psycho-active ingredient that causes fits of the giggles and brings on the munchies, and CBD—the anti-psychoactive component that quite literally counteracts THC.

It isn’t too difficult to figure out where this is going. Marijuana is obviously much higher in THC, while industrial hemp has almost no THC content and a high percentage of CBD. These facts aside, marijuana and hemp are harvested at different times of the year and cross-pollination between the two would only diminish the potency of any marijuana plant.

“There’s some concern that you might grow marijuana along side hemp which shouldn’t be too much of an issue given that they’re two different plants,” Yost said. “The structure of the leaves are very different.”

He added hemp is an extremely sustainable and very versatile plant. His push for legalization stems from the potential benefits research on the plant could unearth.

“Many people believe it could be another source of sustainable fuel such as ethanol, and many states are actually already doing research on it. We want to allow research on it too such as at Virginia Tech,” he said.

Fuel alternatives are just the beginning of the bonuses that hemp has to offer, however. Hemp is an incredibly sturdy material—previously used to manufacture paper, rope and textiles. In fact, the word “canvas” derives from the Dutch word for cannabis because of the materials originally used to create it.

According to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, one acre of hemp can produce four times more paper than one acre of trees.

Cotton can also be swapped out for hemp to manufacture textiles, and hemp fiber is ten times as strong as the former and produces twice as much fiber per acre. Hemp seeds are also consumable, have a high concentration of protein and despite the common misconception—hemp oil is not intoxicating either. Lastly, the vast majority of hemp products are nontoxic, biodegradable and renewable.

As Del. Yost proposes his legalizing legislation in a few short weeks, he might consider reminding the Va. General Assembly that the same ruling body actually mandated every farmer grow hemp a few centuries ago in 1619.

In fact, George Washington — the beloved face of our one-dollar bill and arguably the reason we have cause to celebrate July 4 — harvested hemp in his own backyard.

Brad Kutner

Brad Kutner

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