Industrial hemp bills have the House and Senate seeing green

February 7, 2019

Two bills removing significant barriers to industrial hemp have passed their respective chambers and will continue to make their way through the General Assembly as the session enters its second phase.

SB 1692 (Ruff) and HB 1839 (Marshall) seek to conform Virginia law to the 2019 federal Farm Bill, which lifted restrictions on the cultivation of industrial hemp and allow states to develop their own plans to legalize and regulate industrial hemp farms.  Specifically, the bills amend the definitions of cannabidiol (CBD) oil, marijuana, and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to exclude hemp products and industrial hemp that is grown, dealt, or processed in compliance with state or federal law. The bill also specifically defines “industrial hemp” as any part of the plant Cannabis sativa that has a concentration of THC that is no greater than that allowed by federal law (a plant containing a concentration of 0.3 percent THC would be considered non-hemp cannabis – or marijuana), and it adds the category of “dealer” in industrial hemp to the existing registration categories of grower and processor.  Beyond making clear these new definitions, Senator Ruff’s and Delegate Marshall’s legislation also opens the door for cultivation of industrial hemp under the oversight of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS).

Proponents of this bill cite the lucrative potential hemp has in Virginia, as it is used extensively for textiles, paper, industrial building materials, health and beauty products, and even animal feed.  In fact, the potential economic benefits are so great, the patrons argue, that emergency clauses have been attached to each bill.  This means that, if passed and signed by the governor, this legislation would take effect immediately, thus allowing farmers to take advantage of this new crop in time for this spring’s planting season.

SB 1692 passed the Senate unanimously (40-0) and will be reheard in the House Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources Committee (where its House counterpart reported out 22-0).  HB 1839 also passed the House unanimously and will now be heard in the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee (where its Senate counterpart reported out 15-0).  Both bills are expected to be received favorably and quickly be reported to the full chambers.

VACo Contact: Chris McDonald, Esq.

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