Virginia’s hemp industry is behind that of neighbors such as North Carolina, which legalized industrial hemp before the commonwealth. Other states have a head start, but it is still a developing industry with room for growth. But hemp industries in other states show that Virginia is following a pattern — a successful first year, and then a downturn in profit as the industry regulates itself. This spells out a hopeful outlook for hemp.
Mills and other farmers see hemp as a promising, sustainable industry, despite the instability of the first few years. Hemp, which was legalized in Virginia in 2018, has a multitude of uses, from smokables to CBD-infused products, to rope and textiles. As the FDA allows more uses of hemp, the industry will likely expand.
Mark Gignac, the executive director of the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, which conducts hemp research and testing, pointed to Europe as an example of what the American hemp industry could become. In Europe, hemp is used in bioplastics, often for automobiles.
“I think it’s in its infancy,” said Gignac of the innovation with uses for hemp and the hemp industry as a whole.
Planting of hemp begins in June, and while farmers may have temporarily turned away from industrial hemp or decreased the number of acres they use to grow it, hemp still looks to be a sustainable industry in Southside.