RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Hemp farming could be making a comeback in Virginia after being legal for decades.
Researchers are growing the plant at Virginia State University, which is one of three universities in the state studying hemp as a possible cash crop for Virginia.
Hemp farming has been illegal for the past 70 years, but for the first time in decades, the plant is being grown again on Virginia soil. Two years ago, lawmakers passed a bill allowing industrial hemp to be studied as the state looks at bringing the cash crop back to the Commonwealth.
“It is an honor to be considered as one of the one of the three currently that are doing the pilots that are on hemp,” VSU researcher Mark Kering said.
Kering says they’re currently looking at the best ways to grow the plant because it’s been so long since it was grown in Virginia. Right now, they’re testing several varieties. This is the first full season they’ve had with seeds from Europe and Canada.
“What we are doing here is trying to evaluate several varieties to see which ones perform,” Kering explained, adding that hemp has faced obstacles for years. “There is a misconception that this is marijuana.”
The plant is lumped into the same categories as other drugs on the federal level, and while it is related to marijuana, Kering says it contains just trace amounts of THC, the ingredient in marijuana that gives off the high effect.
As for its potential, Kering says there are many possibilities including oil for cooking, fiber for clothes, fuel and building materials like hemp enforced concrete.
VSU says their trying to educate the public.
“We are having a field day on the 17th of August and we are inviting all to attend,” Kering added.
At the event, Kering says anyone can ask as many questions as they want about industrial hemp.
State lawmakers have legalized hemp, but only the federal government can remove it as a Schedule 1 drug.