Vermont farmers will likely have one more option of what to cultivate this summer after the state legislature Monday gave final approval to Senate Bill 157 which lifts a state ban on hemp farming.
The bill still has to be signed by the governor, but so far he hasn't made any indications that he will veto it.
Technically, Vermont has had legal hemp farming on the books since 2008, but a stipulation in the law requiring a federal permit has kept anyone from planting any seeds. SB 157 removes that requirement and allows the state Secretary of Agriculture to issue licenses.
Because the federal government still considers hemp the same thing as marijuana, hemp is a federally controlled substance. As such, the farmers would still risk federal prosecution as well as other penalties including, potentially, the loss of their lands.
Rep. Teo Zagar, who supported the bill, said he's heard from many farmers and ranchers that they support the measure, including ones who want to use the seed for feed for chickens.
"It really is one of the most versatile plants there is," Zegar told the VT Digger I can't think of any more versatile that you can build with, eat and make clothes out of," he said. "If Vermont takes the lead on this, and we have Vermont natural hemp products, it could be huge. We could have a huge export market opportunity."
In addition to removing the federal permit requirement, the bill defines hemp as cannabis containing less than .3 percent THC by weight.
Vermont is now one of ten states that allow for hemp farming, including California, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Washington, West Virginia and Colorado.But up until this week, none of those states had openly challenged federal law.
On Monday, though, Colorado farmer Ryan Loflin planted what was considered the first real hemp crop in the U.S. in 60 years Monday. Loflin covered about 60 acres in hemp seed formerly used for alfalfa farming. He's also planning a hemp seed business and has purchased a seed press to make oil.