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Hemp Bill Becomes Law in Vermont
USAgNet - 06/02/2008

Vermont farmers might have a new chance to diversify their operations. Governor Jim Douglas allowed a bill that permits farms to plant crops of industrial hemp to become law without his signature. But, as VPR's Ross Sneyd reports, advocates of a hemp industry are still going to have to wait.

Federal law prohibits cultivation of hemp because it comes from the same plant that marijuana does. But lawmakers believe there eventually will be a change in federal policy. Advocates say hemp can be used to make a variety of products, from cosmetics to food to clothing. So legislators overwhelmingly adopted a law that directs the Agriculture Agency to be ready when there is a change.

Representative Will Stevens, an independent from Shoreham, says hemp could be an important crop for many farmers.

Law-enforcement officials opposed the bill. They worry about the link between hemp and marijuana. The governor cited those concerns as part of the reason he didn't sign the bill. But he says those didn't warrant a veto.

Now, the Agriculture Agency will be required to draw up rules for hemp cultivation so farmers could be licensed as soon as federal law changes. North Dakota is the only other state that has done the same thing.

Hemp already is grown legally across Canada and in many other parts of the world. It was outlawed in the United States in 1937, although it was grown for industrial uses during World War II.

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