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Va. farmers hope hemp will become new cash crop, push for legal change

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CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- The U.S. imports hundreds of millions of dollars in industrial hemp every year, from as close even as Canada. However, industrial hemp cannot legally be grown in the U.S. because of a law which dates back decades.

Advocates who want to change the law say thousands of jobs would open up and hundreds of millions of dollars could be made.

That is why farmers are looking into it now, to get in on the ground floor

"The possibilities are endless, unlimited" says Clifton Slade, an organic farmer from Surry County. "If we can get to where we can go ahead and grow it legally."

While industrial hemp is not marijuana, its close association with the drug is why it was outlawed decades ago.

Now advocates say education is the key to getting the law changed.

"That education process starts with letting the people know that you can't get high on it," says Craig Lee with the Kentucky Hemp Growers Association.

"Point zero, three percent THC," says Geo Ogburg an Industrial Hemp Advocate. “If you smoke it, you're not going to get high off of it".

Hemp can be found in creams, salves, cosmetics, paper, bio-fuels, clothing and food.

Some farmers say it could become the new cash crop.

"We're talking tens of thousands of jobs," says Kimley Banks, Agriculture Marketing Director for Halifax County.

While it takes legislators to change the law, researchers aren't waiting.

Three universities in the Commonwealth, Virginia State, Virginia Tech and James Madison have permission to grow Industrial Hemp for research. What is gleaned from the research plots will help farmers get a head start to a successful crop, if the law is changed.

The Industrial Hemp Farm Day held at VSU through their Agriculture Research Station attracted advocates and farmers from multiple states wanting to educate themselves on what it will take to grow the crop.