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Inching Forward in Vermont

May 11, 2012

Senator Vince Illuzzi talking about the hemp bill at the Farm and Food Summit in the Northeast Kingdom. Photo credit: Amy Shollenberger

This year we made some progress toward allowing Vermont farmers to grow industrial hemp. Vote Hemp Director Eric Lineback, along with a couple other local hemp advocates, testified at a hearing held by the Vermont Senate Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs committee, urging legislators to remove the provision in Act 212 of 2008 that delayed the effective date of that law. When the law was passed, it stated that the Vermont Agency of Agriculture shall write rules to create a program to license Vermont farmers to grow hemp, but the law was delayed from going into effect until either federal policy changes or the DEA takes action on license applications. For more info on Act 212, click here.

In response to the testimony, committee chairman Senator Vincent Illuzzi (R/D – Essex/Orleans) drafted an amendment to add to another bill that would have deleted the delayed effective date language. Senator Illuzzi had to use the tactic of adding the language to another bill because it was too late in the legislative session to introduce a separate standalone bill. Senator Illuzzi, testifying before the House Human Services committee about the provision after it had passed the Senate, explained "We thought that from an economic development standpoint, this would be a good time to inch forward ... and create an environment where Vermont leads the country in setting the stage for eventually growing this wonderful product that has served this country well."

At the same hearing, Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross testified that he and the Shumlin administration "support the initiative to advance the possibility of growing hemp in Vermont," and he added that his agency is "prepared to fulfill the law of Act 212 to try to make this work." Both Senator Illuzzi and Secretary Ross noted that hemp is a product that is grown all over the world and that the state of Vermont would be ahead of the curve if the Agency of Agriculture were allowed to begin the rulemaking process to create the licensing program.

Unfortunately, the bill got tangled up in the end-of-session wrangling and was almost lost, but Representative Jill Krowinski (D-Burlington) worked with the Senate to figure out a compromise that could still move the state forward. In the end, the final language allows the rulemaking process to go forward, so the licensing program can be created, but does not allow the Agency of Agriculture to actually grant any licenses yet.

Vote Hemp will be working over the next several months to ensure that the rulemaking process does go forward and that the Agency has the information they need to create a good licensing program. We will also revisit the issue again next year with Vermont legislators and hope to get the law amended further to allow hemp seeds to be planted in Vermont soil.

Meanwhile, stay tuned – we will need your help!  You can give us a jump start by making a contribution to Vote Hemp today.

Thanks to Amy Shollenberger of Action Circles for her help with this update.


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