Virginia’s agriculture industry might have a big win in its future.
US Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine have cosponsored a bill that would legalize hemp and define it as an agricultural commodity.
The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 would effectively remove the plant from the list of controlled substances because hemp would no longer be grouped with marijuana. Which, despite it having so little tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in it, thus no narcotic capability, it was defined as marijuana in the Controlled Substance Act back in 1970 when President Richard Nixon was in office.
Because of its current legal definition, right now hemp is harvested for research purposes in the state of Virginia, but cannot be grown for commercial use. More than an estimated 25,000 products use the plant from textiles to furniture to construction materials, personal care items and more.
The 2014 Farm Bill allowed industrial hemp to be used for agricultural research purposes. Since its enactment, Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the University of Virginia, and James Madison University have been active in hemp research.
This new bill, however, is pulling support from both sides of the aisle.
In a Wednesday press release, Warner said the nation’s agricultural industry shouldn’t be held back by outdated restrictions, which by default prevent the creation of more jobs and hurt the economy.
“Hemp products are already bought, sold, and consumed right here in the United States,” Warner said. “This bipartisan bill will help Virginia farmers, manufacturers and small businesses benefit from the economic growth we have seen in this industry.”
In the same press release, Kaine said he is always looking for ways to support Virginia’s agricultural economy since it’s the state’s leading economic sector.
“Hemp was grown in Virginia by Thomas Jefferson, and research and input from Virginia agricultural stakeholders, agricultural scientists at JMU and Virginia Tech, and economic development leaders like the Tobacco Commission have shown that it is safe and holds economic promise for rural Virginia,” Kaine said. “I’m satisfied that this bill takes sensible steps to address law enforcement concerns and, in turn, that it makes sense to remove industrial hemp from the federal controlled substance list.”
The Hemp Farming Act will also give states the opportunity to be the primary regulators of hemp, make hemp farmers eligible to apply for crop insurance, and allow hemp researchers to apply for more federal grants.
The bill addresses law enforcement concerns regarding the similarity between hemp and marijuana by requiring states to submit hemp growth and production plans for USDA approval.
Warner has been serving on the Senate since 2008 and will keep his seat until 2021. Kaine on the other hand has served on the Senate since 2013 after his reign as governor. He just announced his bid for reelection early last month.