Legislation that legalizes production of industrial hemp in Vermont will become law after Gov. James Douglas announced that he will not veto the measure, the Barre Times Argus reported May 30.
The measure was passed overwhelmingly by both houses of the state legislature, and while Douglas won't sign the bill he will allow it to be enacted. “The federal law still prohibits the cultivation of industrial hemp, and so the practical impact of this legislation is virtually nothing,” said Jason Gibbs, a spokesperson for Douglas. “The consequence of this bill is so low, so insignificant, that it doesn't rise to the level of a gubernatorial veto.”
Law-enforcement officials objected to the hemp bill, saying that it would make marijuana-eradication efforts more difficult. “The plants are really difficult to differentiate,” said Tom Tremblay, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Safety. “The legalization of industrial hemp could increase production of marijuana.”
Authorities from Canada, however, said they had no problems distinguishing between hemp and marijuana; hemp cultivation is legal in Canada.
Rep. Jim McNeil, a bill supporter, said that hemp legalization could help farmers in Vermont. “It could be a viable rotation crop for farmers, and I think it could spur a lot of small businesses,” he said. A number of Vermont businesses sell hemp products and would like to have local sources of the plant rather than having to import hemp from abroad.
“If you have a source of hemp, and a demand for its products, you could potentially see processing facilities around the state,” said Andrew Meyer, co-owner of Vermont Soy.