Plant Industry Services
Section 7606 of the federal Agricultural Act of 2014 (i) allows an institute of higher education or a state department of agriculture to grow or cultivate industrial hemp if certain conditions are met and (ii) specifies that industrial hemp may not have a THC concentration of more than 0.3 percent.
Section 3.2-4120 of the Code of Virginia authorizes the Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services to establish and oversee an industrial hemp research program to be directly managed by public institutions of higher education.
The industrial hemp-related legislation that Governor McAuliffe signed in early 2016, House Bill 699 and Senate Bill 691, requires the Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services to establish a program of licensure to allow a person to grow industrial hemp for any lawful purpose. Currently, under the federal Agricultural Act of 2014, 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. Federal law will need to be amended in order for a person to grow industrial hemp outside of a properly established research program.
On May 24, 2017, VDACS issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to determine which public institutions of higher education are interested in conducting industrial hemp research (RFP). Proposals must be submitted no later than 2 p.m. on Sept. 28, 2017.
As a result of the Requests for Proposals that VDACS issued in May 2015 and 2016, VDACS entered into signed agreements with the following public institutions of higher education to conduct industrial hemp research through 2017.
James Madison University (JMU)
JMU will research how effectively industrial hemp will grow in Virginia’s Ridge and Valley province and will test whether industrial hemp seed can be planted and harvested with conventional agricultural equipment. JMU will also investigate the use of industrial hemp seed oil in the production of biodiesel.
University of Virginia (UVA)
UVA will conduct agronomic studies as well as studies aimed at establishing new molecular breeding and genetic engineering strategies to specifically enhance the biological properties of the hemp plant. UVA’s goal is to develop a Virginia hemp cultivar.
Virginia State University (VSU)
VSU will research and analyze required soils, growing conditions, and harvest methods related to various varieties of industrial hemp; conduct industrial hemp seed research; and study the use of industrial hemp in new energy technologies.
Virginia Tech (VT)
VT will conduct agronomic trials to identify industrial hemp varieties that are well-suited to the soils and climate of Virginia and to compare yield responses to various agronomic treatments.
Virginia law requires that, before growing industrial hemp as part of an industrial hemp research program, an individual must obtain a grower’s license from VDACS. In order to obtain a grower’s license, you must first obtain a written agreement with a public institution of higher education that documents that you are a participant in that institution’s industrial hemp research program.
Possession or cultivation of industrial hemp plant material or seeds is illegal in Virginia unless you have a grower’s license and you are in possession of or cultivating industrial hemp as part of an industrial hemp research program.
The importation of viable industrial hemp seed is illegal pursuant to the federal Controlled Substances Act.
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