We are so pleased that the Vermont legislature passed the recent bill modifying Vermont’s law on the production of hemp.  This bill modifies a 2008 bill that legalized the growing of hemp “when federal regulations permit” such cultivation.  The new bill removes that statement which allows farmers to begin growing hemp once they have received a license from the Vermont Department of Agriculture.

Senate bill 157 stated that “Hemp has been continuously cultivated for millennia, is accepted and available in the global marketplace, and has numerous beneficial, practical, and economic uses, including: high-strength fiber, textiles, clothing, bio-fuel, paper products, protein-rich food containing essential fatty acids and amino acids, biodegradable plastics, resins, nontoxic medicinal and cosmetic products, construction materials, rope, and value-added crafts.”

The Fabric of Vermont - Gown and Country, Vermont Life, Spring 2012

Hemp, silk and cotton wedding dresses by Tara Lynn Bridal. Currently this fabric is manufactured in China.

As a designer who is committed to using hemp and hemp blends in all of my garments, I am especially excited to see that hemp fabric may one day become available in Vermont so that I am no longer required to order it from outside of our country.   The limited availability of hemp building materials has made their cost very expensive.  As a couple trying to live sustainably, we wanted to use hemp building materials in the construction of our house; but because it is so limited, the price of shipping the materials from California would have doubled the cost.

The historical significance of hemp production in the United States is just one of the reasons advocates have been so committed in getting the Federal government to change their restrictions on growing and cultivation of industrial hemp.  In his book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes, Jack Herer gives a very informative history of hemp and its uses in the U.S.  He writes “in 1619, America’s first marijuana law was enacted at Jamestown Colony, Virginia, “ordering” all farmers to “make tryal of” (grow) Indian hempseed.  More mandatory (must-grow) hemp cultivation laws were enacted in Massachusetts in 1631, in Connecticut in 1632 and in the Chesapeake Colonies into the mid-1700s.” (pg 1)

The laws that prohibit the growing of hemp (or cannabis) were enacted because of the drug qualities of marijuana, however hemp has only .3% of the THC found in marijuana.  This fact alone should be enough to separate the federal laws regarding marijuana production and those of industrial hemp.

Hemp has so many uses.  Textiles and fabrics, paper, rope, twine and cordage, art canvas, paints and varnishes, lighting oil, bio mass energy, medicine, food oils and protein, and building materials have all been byproducts of the hemp plant at some point in our history.   It is also one of the greatest renewable resources we have on the planet.  To overlook its positive potential because of one aspect of its use is short sighted.

Although Vermont has changed its law, the federal government still considers the growing of cannabis illegal.  Vermont farmers who choose to farm hemp will face federal issues if they are caught and Vermont has strongly expressed its position that all farmers will be on their own in the event of any charges.  However, Vermont is just one of ten states that have legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp.  It is just another step forward in the process of getting the federal government to recognize this important and productive plant.