An effort to allow Vermont’s four marijuana dispensaries to grow hemp to produce a medicinal oil has raised concerns among Vermont hemp growers.
Claims of the therapeutic benefits of a hemp oil which contains an ingredient called cannabidiol, or CBD, have created a demand for the product, particularly among parents who feel it is effective in treating seizures and other medical conditions in children.
Lindsay Wells, the marijuana program administrator with the Department of Public Safety, says legislators are trying to respond to that demand by giving the state’s licensed medicinal marijuana dispensaries permission to grow hemp in addition to marijuana.
“The dispensaries didn’t have the product available and the legislature wanted to figure out a way," Wells says. "How can we make this product available so these parents can get the oil to treat their children?"
Unlike marijuana, which is strictly controlled and legal only for medicinal purposes in Vermont, the hemp oil with CBD is legal and available to anyone who wants to order it from any of a number of sources. That’s because the oil, like the hemp it’s derived from, contains just a small percentage of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
If they were to grow hemp, the dispensaries would have to abide by the same restrictions that govern marijuana cultivation.
That raised concerns from Vermont hemp growers – and there are about two dozen of them – that they, too, would have to follow the restrictive rules.
So legislators are being asked to exempt them from the rules.
Joel Bedard, the founder of the Vermont Hemp Company, says he’s worried there still isn’t enough clarity to protect hemp growers.
Bedard also objects to the idea of the state controlling an aspect of agriculture that is otherwise freely practiced in Vermont.
“Currently in the state of Vermont, hemp is completely uncontrolled,” he says. “There is no aspect of industrial hemp that is considered a controlled substance. Why we’re taking the wording for marijuana, which is a completely controlled substance, and forcing it onto an uncontrolled substance is, I think unnecessary.”
The committee will continue deliberating the new rules for the state’s marijuana dispensaries next month.