Hemp State Highlight: Vermont’s hemp industry could see big changes from MJ, larger neighbors

 In Hemp

(This is the second installment in a series that will look at hemp markets in U.S. states over the next few months. Previous installments: North Carolina.)

MJ Biz Daily / By Kristen Nichols / October 18, 2017

Vermont’s small hemp industry has cause for great optimism: The state has the nation’s loosest hemp regulations and a latitude that makes it an easy fit for hemp cultivars developed in Canada and northern Europe.

But Vermont’s hemp growers have reason to worry, too.

For one, the state’s few hemp producers are about to face increased competition from Vermont’s larger neighbors, New York and Canada, both of which are making big investments in their hemp markets.

And there are concerns from within the tiny state, too. If the state legislature and the governor can agree next year on legislation to legalize recreational marijuana, the resulting rules could give hemp producers a whole new set of guidelines, with uncertain implications.

“We’re at a pivot point,” said Tim Fair, a Burlington attorney who represents both marijuana and hemp businesses. “Things are about to change.”

Here’s what you need to know about Vermont’s hemp market.

Industry snapshot 

Vermont has authorized hemp growing since 2013, a year before Congress enabled states to do so in a limited manner.

Notably, Vermont is out of compliance with those federal hemp rules. Vermont’s hemp growers do not have to participate in a pilot project or a research scheme with a university or state agriculture authorities – conditions laid out in the 2014 Farm Bill authorizing limited hemp production.

Interested hemp growers can get hemp licenses for $25 a year, with no background check requirements or acreage limits.

Vermont growers also have better access to viable hemp seeds than hemp farmers in other states. Because long-established hemp-seed producers in Canada and Europe are close in latitude to Vermont, seed acquired by Vermont growers can have higher germination rates than seed sown in states farther south.

As of this year, Vermont has:

  • 90 licensed hemp growers
  • 560 outdoor acres licensed for cultivation

That’s where official data about Vermont’s hemp industry ends. The state does not actively research or monitor the plant.

Vermont agriculture officials also don’t know how many licensed acres are actually in production, how much hemp its farmers are producing, or where and how they’re selling it, said Tim Schmalz, Plant Industry Section Chief for the Vermont Department of Agriculture.

Unlike other hemp states, Vermont does not require hemp plants be tested to make sure their THC content is below 0.3%, Schmalz said.

Instead, Vermont tests hemp’s THC content only at the request of law enforcement. That has happened only once, Schmalz said, and the plants in question passed inspection.

Vermont’s hemp entrepreneurs take pride in the state’s hands-off approach to the plant.

“Vermont’s hemp rules are intentionally vague,” said Joel Bedard, CEO of Vermont Hemp Co. in Jericho. Bedard’s company grew about 200 acres of hemp this year, mostly for fiber and seed. It also contracts with several Vermont hemp growers to provide raw materials for resale to other processors.

“We’re a small state,” Bedard said. “We don’t have a huge tax base to whimsically create new programs and new government jobs overseeing hemp.”

In keeping with its laissez-faire hemp posture, Vermont also has no rules for how hemp can be used. Growers report that hemp is being grown for:

  • CBD extraction
  • Seed or seed oil
  • Fiber

Read more at mjbizdaily.com