Vermont’s Lax Industrial Hemp Rules Driving Cottage Industry
A hemp cultivation permit is easy to come by in Vermont – for an annual fee of $25, anybody can register with the state to grow the crop so long as they verify that the plants fall below the 0.3 percent THC federal government threshold defining the plant as “hemp.”
These loose restrictions, codified in 2013, have led to a cottage hemp industry in the Green Mountain State – one that advocates say lays the groundwork for a more robust industry while allowing smaller operators to stake their claim in a still nascent market.
Concerned over potential federal interference in the 2018 farm bill which will either “blow [the hemp industry] wide open…or completely destroy it,” Joel Bedard, CEO and Founder of The VT Hemp Co., thinks this year’s grow is integral to the success of hemp cultivators in the state. The VT Hemp Company, which holds a hemp research permit from the DEA, works to link cultivators with processors, and ultimately get hemp-derived products to consumers.
“I recognize that [the hemp industry] is entirely white space – complete rebuild of an economic opportunity – but I also recognize that hemp is an international commodity crop,” Bedard said in a phone interview. “So it’s not like we can just make up new rules – it’s more like we have to take existing rules and translate them into a contemporary opportunity.”
Bedard and his team are hoping their partnerships solve two key issues for would-be hemp farmers: securing both seed and processing equipment. Vermont, Bedard explains, is not compliant under Section 7606 of the 2014 Federal Farm Bill. “That is to say that the state didn’t take on the role of vetting individual applicants and the state is not dealing with the DEA,” he said, adding that most people growing hemp in the state are in violation of federal, but not state, laws.