Hemp Happening- March 19, 2014
By Rural Vermont Organizing Intern Kimberly Voellmann
This past Wednesday, a group of nearly forty Hemp enthusiasts gathered at Middlebury’s Ilsley Public Library, sharing a common aspiration: hemp cultivation. The desire to grow hemp plants in Vermont on a range of scales from personal to commercial and agricultural is something bringing more and more Vermonters together for collaboration. Hemp offers Vermont a great economic opportunity.
Rural Vermont Organizer Robb Kidd stated that “Rural Vermont recognizes hemp cultivation as an opportunity to provide Vermont farmers with a highly versatile crop that gives them financial opportunity while increasing sustainability and filling the demand for local hemp products.” The plant is the source of strong fibers that can be used to produce a number of goods. Hemp seeds offer huge nutritional value, containing high levels of protein, amino acids, and Omega-3s. The seed can also be used to add to animal feed as a nutritionally dense product. There is a recognized demand for the product in Vermont, but currently no legal source of the plant.
Hemp cultivation gained a new light, and greater attention after a clear definition was created which separated the plant from marijuana, and was recognized as an agricultural product deserving of its own laws and regulations. Hemp is defined in Vermont as “the plant Cannabis sativa (L.) and any part of the plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.
It is currently legal in Vermont to grow hemp, as long as the grower registers with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture and pays the $25 fee. However, it is illegal for individuals to grow hemp under Federal jurisdiction. The most recent Farm Bill passed by President Obama allows for hemp cultivation at research and academic institutions. The University of Vermont is ready to begin research programs with hemp, but attorneys at the university are hesitant in respect to legal implications.
Vermont Attorney, Josyln Wilsek, of Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer PC, spoke to the risks of growing hemp in Vermont, emphasizing that it is not legal under federal law. She laid out the reality of hemp cultivation and warned growers of what opposition they may face. This forewarning, however, did not seem to faze hemp advocates in attendance, but rather provoked greater interest and willingness to go ahead with hemp cultivation. The majority of attendees expressed interest in growing hemp on land they have already purchased, or to find out more about the prospects of growing hemp in Vermont for economic gain. Eric Lineback of Vote Hemp pointed out that we have yet to experience any opposition from Federal authorities and does not see a clear reason why they would need to interfere with Vermont growers.
Netaka White, the co-owner of Full Sun Company and an event cosponsor, expressed his company’s prospects with hemp cultivation in the state. Full Sun Company, an oilseed supplier based in Middlebury, sees the opportunity hemp seed oil offers. They currently rely on Canadian farms for their supply of hemp seed, but would like to support Vermont farmers and obtain their supply more locally. Netaka introduced Reuben Stone, a hemp farmer from Ottawa who shared a presentation via video conference about the logistics of growing hemp, and the benefits he has experienced since beginning cultivation. Since 2009, Stone has been growing two thousand acres of hemp in Canada. He was able answer a variety of in-depth questions the audience posed to him.
The Hemp Happening was successful in bringing together hemp enthusiasts and providing an educational opportunity for those interested in entering the emergent market for hemp products. The turnout is evidence that Vermont is a promising environment in which to take advantage of the opportunity hemp offers. Attendees were loaded with questions, including concerns surrounding seed sourcing, legal risks, and applications to homesteaders, all expressing an urgent desire to start growing. As hemp is a fairly versatile plant, it offers a variety of options for people to turn it into a highly valued product. Rural Vermont expressed deep appreciation for Senator Leahy for his work in achieving hemp progress on a national level and hope this acceptance continues to grow in the future. For more information regarding hemp in Vermont, email email@example.com.