Nelson County Farm Owners Push for the Right to Grow Hemp
NELSON COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Two Nelson County farm owners are working to change the laws that keep them from growing a valuable cash crop because it comes from the same plant as marijuana.
They believe it could be the future for Virginia's farmers.
Jerry and Suzanna Thornton own a farm in Nelson County that they feel could be made profitable by growing hemp.
The crop is illegal to produce in Virginia because of its close relationship with marijuana.
“Industrial hemp doesn't have any THC. It's defined as less than point zero three percent THC, which you can relate to marijuana that has upwards of thirty percent,” said Jerry Thornton.
The Thornton’s say hemp could become a valuable cash crop, bringing in about $900 an acre.
“We don't want to see farms start being sold off or disappear because it's not financially beneficial,” said Suzanna Thornton.”
They're not alone. State Delegate Joseph Yost says he's heard from several people in his district and has decided to put forward a bill for the 2015 legislative session that would legalize hemp.
He says Virginia needs to start taking advantage of a multi-million dollar industry.
“Last year they imported about 800 million dollars’ worth of hemp to the united states from various countries like Canada, the Ukraine, Great Britain, and China, and we sold about 500 million dollars’ worth of hemp products in the country,” said Yost.
Aside from the economics, Yost says the plant has endless benefits with around 25,000 known uses.
The Thornton’s have started a business called commonwealth hemp.
Right now they operate as an informational blog, hoping soon they'll be able to grow and sell the real thing.
Delegate Yost plans to submit his bill on the first day of pre-filing for the next general assembly session.
If it passes, Virginia would become only the 10th state to allow the crop.