Vermont Hemp Overview

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What Is Hemp?

Hemp is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant containing no more than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It is used for therapeutic and industrial purposes. It is often called industrial hemp because of its varied usage in producing industrial products such as plastic, textile, cosmetics, and paper. Hemp and marijuana are both varieties of the cannabis plant, with the major difference being the proportion of THC in them. Marijuana contains more than 0.3% THC, while hemp’s THC content must not exceed 0.3%.

THC is a cannabinoid in the cannabis plant responsible for the ‘high’ felt by cannabis consumers. Hemp rarely gets users high because of the low content of THC. It contains more cannabidiol (CBD) than cannabis. Hemp and marijuana look similar, and are usually difficult to differentiate them by their physical features. Hemp is legal in the U.S. and can be taken across state lines. Conversely, marijuana is illegal at the federal level and must not be taken across state lines.

The different parts of hemp plants and their derivatives can be used for different things. These include:

  • Hemp Seeds: Hemp seeds are rich in minerals, protein, healthy fatty acids, and fiber. They can be roasted or ground into meals. They can be used to regulate heart rate and prevent coronary diseases
  • Hemp Flowers: Hemp flowers are low in THC and can be used to treat inflammation and anxiety. It is also used to manage post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It can be made into edibles or oil and can also be smoked or vaporized
  • Hemp Extract: Hemp extract is made from crushed hemp leaves and flowers. It contains terpenes, fatty acids, cannabinoids, and essential vitamins. It can be used to relieve pain and improve sleep. Hemp extracts can be taken orally or sublingually
  • Hemp Oil: Hemp seed oil (hemp oil) is extracted from hemp seeds by cold-pressing the hemp seeds. It is rich in unsaturated fatty acids (omega-6 and omega-3 acids). Hemp oil can be used orally or topically. It can be used to lower blood pressure and improve skin texture
  • Hemp Hearts: Hemp hearts are the unshelled soft inner part of the hemp seeds. Hemp hearts are devoid of CBD and THC. They are rich in minerals, healthy fats, proteins, and vitamins. Hemp hearts can be made into edibles or eaten directly. Their potential health benefits include improved cognitive function, improved heart health, and reduced risk of diabetes
  • Hemp Milk: Hemp milk is non-dairy milk produced by blending water and hemp seeds. It is rich in protein, essential amino acids, and vitamins. It is an excellent alternative for people who are dairy milk-intolerant or THC-intolerant. Its omega-6 fatty acids help to induce anti-inflammatory effects and improve brain health

Is Hemp Legal in Vermont?

Yes, hemp is legal in Vermont. In 2014, the Agricultural Act of 2014 (2014 Farm Bill) was passed at the federal level to allow states to operate pilot programs to regulate hemp production. It permitted the states’ department of agriculture and higher educational institutions to grow industrial hemp for research purposes. The Act defined hemp as a cannabis plant with a THC concentration not exceeding 0.3% on a dry-weight basis. However, it did not remove hemp from the controlled substances list maintained by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Hence, the possession of hemp by the public remained illegal under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act.

In 2018, the 2014 Farm Bill was expanded with the enactment of the 2018 Agriculture Improvement Act (2018 Farm Bill). The 2018 Farm Bill legalized industrial hemp by removing it from the controlled substances list, allowing financial institutions to process hemp-related transactions and extend loans to hemp businesses. The bill allowed states to enact laws to legalize industrial hemp and submit industrial hemp production plans to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for approval. Under the 2018 Farm Bill, the USDA has a duty to issue hemp production licenses directly to hemp businesses in states without approved hemp production plans.

In 2013, a year before the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, the Vermont General Assembly passed Act 84 (Senate Bill 157) to allow the cultivation of hemp in Vermont. The Act authorized the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) to license hemp growers. In 2018, Vermont enacted Act 143 to conform the state hemp law with the 2018 Farm Bill. Act 143 directed the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets to submit the state’s Hemp Production Plan to USDA for approval. The USDA-approved plan authorized the VAAFM to issue industrial hemp cultivation and processing licenses.

In 2022, Vermont enacted Act 158 to transfer the licensing of certain hemp processors to the Vermont Cannabis Control Board (CCB). In a bulletin released by the CCB, only hemp processors producing hemp products with more than 1 milligram of THC need to apply for licensing. Act 158 also relieved the VAAFM of the responsibility of licensing industrial hemp cultivators. The VAAFM withdrew its hemp production plan with the USDA and authorized the USDA to start issuing licenses to hemp growers in Vermont.

Vermont residents can grow two mature hemp plants and four immature hemp plants in their residences without a hemp cultivation license. In addition, processors of hemp products with less than 1 milligram of THC do not need to apply for licenses. Vermont residents can freely purchase hemp products in the state, and they can take hemp and hemp products across state lines.

What Hemp Products are Legal in Vermont?

Hemp is considered an agricultural product in Vermont, and natural hemp products are legal in the state. Individuals or entities with hemp cultivation licenses from the USDA can cultivate hemp for human consumption. However, processors of hemp products with 1 milligram or more of THC must be licensed by the Vermont Cannabis Control Board (CCB). In April 2023, the CCB prohibited the production and sales of hemp-derived synthetically-produced cannabinoids such as Delta-8 THC and Delta-10 THC. Residents can smoke hemp in private in Vermont, but smoking hemp while driving is prohibited.

Can A Municipality Restrict Hemp Cultivation or Processing in Vermont?

Municipalities in Vermont cannot prohibit individuals or businesses from cultivating or processing hemp within their jurisdictions. However, they may limit the cultivation and processing of hemp to specific zones within their borders.

How to Get a License to Grow or Process Hemp in Vermont

Vermont allows residents to grow up to two mature hemp plants or up to four immature hemp plants without licenses. However, persons interested in cultivating more will require hemp production licenses from the USDA. The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets stopped issuing hemp cultivation licenses in 2022 and transferred the responsibility to the USDA. To be eligible for a USDA-issued hemp production license, key participants in the business must not have been convicted of felonies related to controlled substances within 10 years before the application date. Key participants are persons with financial interests in the business and executive-level officers.

Applicants can complete USDA hemp production license applications online through the USDA Hemp eManagement Platform (HeMP) or submit their applications by mail after filling out the USDA Hemp Application Form. To apply online, applicants must create their accounts on the HeMP portal. Applicants and key participants in the business must submit copies of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) criminal history reports. The FBI report must be dated not earlier than 60 days before the application submission date.

Anyone applying for a Vermont hemp production license via mail may send their completed hemp application form and FBI criminal history reports to:

USDA/AMS/Specialty Crops Program

Hemp Branch

470 L’Enfant Plaza S.W.

P.O. Box 23192

Washington D.C. 20026

The USDA will contact successful applicants to submit their hemp acreage to the Farm Service Agency (FSA). Information to be submitted include the description of the facility, their USDA license number, and the GPS location of the proposed cultivation site. The USDA hemp production license is valid for three years.

From January 1, 2023, the CCB began overseeing hemp processing in the state, and they are in the process of developing application guidelines and processes. However, hemp processors manufacturing hemp products with less than 1 mg of THC do not need to obtain licenses from the CCB.

How Much Does a License to Grow or Process Hemp Cost in Vermont?

There is no cost for obtaining hemp production licenses from the USDA. The CCB has not yet finalized the processes and costs for obtaining hemp processing licenses in Vermont.

How to Grow Hemp in Vermont

Hemp is a versatile plant that can grow in most weather and climatic conditions. It is an environmentally friendly plant with a natural resistance to pests. Industrial hemp is best cultivated during the frost-free season (May - September). The following are the steps for growing hemp in Vermont:

  • Select an appropriate grow site: Hemp grows best in high organic matter, well-drained, loamy soil. The soil pH should be between 6.0 and 7.5. The soil should be tested to assess nutrient levels. Soils rich in potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus are ideal for hemp cultivation. If the soil is deficient, manure and nitrogen-rich compost can be used to enrich it. The soil temperature for industrial hemp in Vermont should be between 46 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Obtain cultivation license: Interested hemp growers in Vermont must apply to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for hemp production licenses
  • Acquire good quality seeds: It is important to source quality seeds based on the purpose of cultivating the hemp plants. Hemp seeds cultivated for CBD production will be different from seeds for fiber production. The CBD-THC ratio must also be considered. It might be necessary to consult with agricultural experts, the VAAFM, or the USDA for guidance on seed selection
  • Plant the seeds: Follow the planting instructions provided by the seed suppliers for optimal results. Hemp may be planted on the grow site directly without using a nursery. Generally, industrial hemp seeds should be planted in 0.5 to 0.7 inches deep holes. The space between hemp plants is dependent on the purpose of planting. Hemp plants intended for fiber should be planted closely, while those intended for CBD or hemp seed should be well-spaced
  • Crop management: The first six weeks of planting hemp plants are the most critical. They require a lot of sunlight, water, and care during this period. Irrigation can be used to augment rainfall to ensure adequate water provision. USDA-approved pesticides and insecticides for hemp plants should be applied
  • Harvesting and processing: The intended use of the plant will determine the time of harvest. Hemp intended for fiber may be harvested in 70 days, while those intended for CBD production should be harvested between 115 and 140 days. Hemp plants cultivated for hemp seed should be harvested in 110 days. Harvested hemp plants should be properly dried and processed to preserve the quality

The process of cultivating hemp plants is slightly different from growing cannabis plants. Hemp plants often grow taller than marijuana plants as a result of their breeding. Cannabis plants are bred to spread wider in order to produce more flowers that contain THC. Conversely, industrial hemp plants grow taller and have more fiber for the production of ropes, paper, textiles, and other industrial hemp products. Industrial hemp plants can be cultivated close together in fields, while marijuana plants are grown farther apart to ensure the maximum production of flowers.

Where Can You Buy Hemp Flower in Vermont?

Vermont residents can buy hemp flowers from hemp shops, marijuana dispensaries, gas stations, and from online stores. There are no limits to the amount of smokable hemp flowers residents can purchase in Vermont. Hemp retailers may ship in hemp flowers from other states, provided the THC content does not exceed 0.3%.

Hemp vs THC

Hemp is a cannabis plant with no more than 0.3% THC, while THC is one of the cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. THC is the psychoactive, intoxicating compound in the cannabis plant that causes euphoria in cannabis users. Because of hemp’s minute proportion of THC, hemp products do not intoxicate users. Hemp-derived Delta-9 THC products are available and sold in Vermont.

Hemp vs CBD

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally occurring, non-psychoactive chemical compound found in hemp and marijuana. It is more abundant in hemp than in marijuana. It is popular for its therapeutic benefits and is used to manage several medical conditions, including seizures, epilepsy, chronic pain, depression, addiction, and nausea. Both hemp-derived CBD and marijuana-derived CBD are legal in Vermont. Hemp-derived CBD is readily available in Vermont and is sold in stores across the state.

Hemp Applications

Industrial hemp is used for therapeutic and industrial purposes. Its industrial uses in Vermont include:

  • Textiles: Hemp fibers are used to produce durable and strong textiles. Hemp textiles shield ultraviolet (UV) better than other materials, and it is more durable
  • Building Materials: Hemp fibers can be used to produce building materials. Hempcrete, made from hemp hurds, is a viable alternative to concrete. Building materials made from hemp are cheaper and more durable. They are waterproof and fire-resistant
  • Biofuel: Biodiesel and bioethanol are two biofuels made from industrial hemp. They do not produce as much emissions as fossil fuels, and they are biodegradable. Hemp biofuel has enhanced lubricating qualities, which can help to prolong the lifespan of automobiles
  • Paper: The pulp of hemp fiber can be used to make papers. It is cheaper to produce because it requires less water and fewer chemicals than wood pulp paper. It also has a lower lignin content than wood. It is durable and can be recycled multiple times. Specialty papers like cigarette papers, filter paper, and banknotes can be made from hemp fiber
  • Cosmetics: Hemp seed oil is a popular ingredient in cosmetic and skincare products. It is suitable for managing skin conditions due to its moisturizing and nourishing properties. Hemp oil is found in soaps, shampoos, lotions, and creams
  • Solar Panel: Industrial hemp fiber can be used to produce durable solar panels. Hemp solar panels are cheaper than those made from silicon and graphene
  • Automobile parts: Hemp bioplastics can be used to produce automobile parts. Automobile parts made from hemp bioplastic have reduced weight, which makes the automobile more fuel-efficient. They are also more resistant to dents than steel
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