The Virginia Industrial Hemp Coalition, an industrial hemp lobbying group, rallied supporters Saturday night in Belmont, hosting a film screening of "Hempsters" and a discussion about
.


The bill will go before the General Assembly in the upcoming session. If passed, HB 1277 would allow Virginia farmers to grow hemp. 


“Industrial hemp is an incredibly versatile crop - agricultural crop that has a vast array of uses from textiles and ropes to oils and foods,” Joni Lane of the Virginia Industrial Hemp Coalition.


The crop even has potential in construction. “It's nontoxic, it's biodegradable, it's a very innovative building material that they're using all over Europe and it's slowly beginning to come to the United States,” Lane stated.


Several states including Kentucky have started growing hemp. Virginia is not one of those states yet. "This was one of the cash crops that started our state, so it historically has deep roots," Jason Amatucci of the Virginia Industrial Hemp Coalition.


Some critics argue that if it is legalized, some hemp growers may try to hide illegal marijuana in the crop since they look similar. Amatucci says the plants are very different. “They do not grow well together. One will pollinate the other, and lower its THC and also make it go into seed production. So you'd have to be very foolish to grow marijuana and hemp together, you're not going to get the desired results," he stated.


The coalition says hemp would boost the commonwealth's economy since the United States imports about $500 million worth of hemp each year. “This is a very important bill for Virginia farming, jobs, economy." said Amatucci.


The coalition is encouraging supporters to write their state lawmakers asking them to back HB1277.