Virginia official signals state plans to boost hemp program

Virginia is looking to boost its small hemp program next year to compete with larger producers of the plant such as North Carolina and Kentucky.

Virginia Agriculture Commissioner Basil I. Gooden wrote in an op-ed in The Roanoke Times that hemp’s potential in Virginia is “tremendous,” and he indicated that changes are coming to help Virginia realize that potential.

“I am working with Virginia stakeholders to move our industry ahead in allowing the production and processing of industrial hemp products,” Gooden wrote.

Gooden said that Virginia would soon update its 2015 hemp law to add a new research program and “attract more processors to our state.”

Under current state law, “the only lawful purpose for which industrial hemp may be grown in Virginia is for research conducted by an institute of higher education or a state department of agriculture.” The language effectively limits the opportunities for farmers to market the crop.

Gooden acknowledged criticism that Virginia’s limited hemp program has stymied the industry compared to nearby states. Gooden assured farmers that Virginia is pursuing market opportunities for hemp growing, saying that Virginia officials are “working hard to learn about the best, most advantageous way to bring this crop to market while it is being researched and regulated.”