Supervisor seeks support for hemp law

WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County leaders plan to consider endorsing industrial hemp production in the state.

The Board of Supervisors discussed a resolution of support for the proposed Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015 during a work session Thursday. The resolution will come before the board for action at a future meeting.

Vice Chairman Richard Walker, who represents district 3, told the board he researched the topic of industrial hemp. Walker quickly noted that hemp is not the same as marijuana and has far less THC. Legislation supporting industrial hemp production has been proposed many times over the years and currently sits in committee, Walker said. The supervisor debunked some myths about hemp, adding that state and national farm bureaus support its production given that the plant isn’t a drug.

“We’re not talking about marijuana,” Walker said. “Nobody’s gonna be smoking this stuff and if they did it would taste like lousy tobacco.”

“What has happened in the idea of combating drugs … they did not make a differentiation based on the THC content,” Walker added. “They merely said therefore all cannabis plants are categorized as drugs.”

State law that took effect July 1 allows for the licensing of industrial-hemp growing and manufacturing. The Industrial Hemp Act remains in the judiciary committees of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, Walker said. The legislation has about 70 cosponsors in the House and 14 in the Senate, he noted. The bills define industrial hemp as containing less than three-tenths of 1 percent of THC and provide for state licensing and oversight as indicated in the state law.

The board also heard presentations from Bobby Clark, extension agent and unit coordinator with the Virginia Cooperative Extension, John Fike, extension forage specialist from Virginia Tech and Erin Williams, senior policy analyst with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The resolution states that industrial hemp, identified as a variety of the Cannabis sativa L plant species, is grown for industrial uses of its derived products, not as a recreational drug. Hemp can help farmers avoid the use of herbicides, the resolution states. A 1998 study considers industrial hemp as environmentally friendly. Hemp is used to make commercial and industrial products. The United States imports industrial hemp from Canada, China and Europe to produce products valued at close to $600 million per year.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com