New West Virginia Law Legalizes Commercial Hemp Farming Despite Federal Prohibition

By Michael Maharrey

Yesterday, a West Virginia law went into effect that significantly expands the state’s hemp licensing program, opening the door for anybody in the state to produce or process industrial hemp for commercial purposes. The new law sets the foundation to end federal prohibition of hemp in effect in the Mountain State.

Del. Jeff Eldridge (D-Alum Creek) and Del. Jim Butler (R-Henderson) sponsored House Bill 2453 (HB2453). The legislation removes language in the previous hemp licensing program that restricted it to the Department of Agriculture and state institutions of higher learning. Under the new law, any person with a license will be able plant, grow, harvest, possess, process, sell, and buy industrial hemp.

The licensing program is “shall issue,” meaning the Department of Agriculture will be required to issue a license to any person meeting statutory requirements. Without this section, the department could deny applications for a myriad of reasons.

HB2453 passed the Senate 34-0. It passed the House by a 99-0 vote. With Gov. Justice’s signature, the law went into effect July 4.

“I think West Virginia is kind of in the center; we could have the industry move here to process hemp the plant itself and extract all of the derivatives from the plant you can,” Eldridge said in an interview.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting reported the limits of the current program due to its conformity with federal law has hindered the development of a hemp industry.

“But because of the strict requirements under the 2014 bill, growers are not able to sell their plants and cannot transport them across state lines to be turned into those usable products. That’s limited the ability to create a real hemp industry in the state.”


Early in 2014, President Barack Obama signed a new farm bill into law, which included a provision allowing a handful of states to begin limited research programs growing hemp. The “hemp amendment”

…allows State Agriculture Departments, colleges and universities to grow hemp, defined as the non-drug oil-seed and fiber varieties of Cannabis, for academic or agricultural research purposes, but it applies only to states where industrial hemp farming is already legal under state law.

In short, current federal law authorizes the farming of hemp – by research institutions, or within state pilot programs, for research only. Farming for commercial purposes by individuals and businesses remains prohibited. HB2453 ignores federal prohibition and authorizes commercial farming and production anyway.


By rejecting any need for federal approval, HB2453 sets the stage to nullify the federal hemp ban in practice. West Virginia could join with other states – including Colorado, Oregon, Maine, Massachusetts, California and Vermont – that have simply ignored federal prohibition and legalized industrial hemp production within their state borders.

While prospective hemp growers would still have to take federal law into consideration, by eliminating the chance of state prosecution, the West Virginia law will clear away a major obstacle to widespread commercial hemp farming within the borders of the state.

Farmers in SE Colorado started harvesting the plant in 2013, and farmers in Vermont began harvesting in 2014, effectively nullifying federal restrictions on such agricultural activities. On Feb. 2, 2105, the Oregon hemp industry officially opened for business and one week later, the first license went to a small non-profit group. As more people engage in hemp production and the market grows within these states, more people will become emboldened creating an exponential wave, ultimately nullifying the federal ban in effect.


According to a 2005 Congressional Research Service report, the U.S. is the only developed nation that hasn’t developed an industrial hemp crop for economic purposes.

Experts suggest that the U.S. market for hemp is around $600 million per year. They count as many as 25,000 uses for industrial hemp, including food, cosmetics, plastics and bio-fuel. The U.S. is currently the world’s #1 importer of hemp fiber for various products, with China and Canada acting as the top two exporters in the world.

During World War II, the United States military relied heavily on hemp products, which resulted in the famous campaign and government-produced film, Hemp for Victory!

Michael Maharrey [send him email] is the Communications Director for the Tenth Amendment Center, where this article first appeared. He proudly resides in the original home of the Principles of ’98 – Kentucky. See his blog archive here and his article archive here. He is the author of the book, Our Last Hope: Rediscovering the Lost Path to Liberty. You can visit his personal website at and like him on Facebook HERE

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3 Comments on "New West Virginia Law Legalizes Commercial Hemp Farming Despite Federal Prohibition"

  1. This law is badly needed to boost the state’s GDP. Besides, it also needs to de-criminalize Marijuana laws so that the prisons can be emptied out to make room for the truly violent offenders.
    Then, the attention that is focused on Marijuana can turn to the Opiates which are destroying the Appalacian Region in mass quantity.
    Besides, hemp fibers last 8x’s longer than cotton, which is great for long-lasting and affordable clothing in this depressed region.
    See the movie ‘Matewan’, and see why West Virginia has been financially punished for over 120 years!
    That’s why the Rockefellers, Byrds, etc. have always had a totalitarian grip on the state, and have always insured that the Labor Force would never, ever profit from the PTB exploiting the state’s resources while simultaneously destroying historical mountain sites (ie Blair Mountain, for instance, as per ‘The Battle for Blair Mountain’).

  2. That will distress the state’s guerilla farmers, since hemp can cross-breed and ruin their sensamilla pot.

    That we still cut down forests to make toilet paper is stupid on a cosmic scale, make it out of Hemp!

  3. Neat. Now, I need to see what is required to attain license to grow. We have a spare acre at the least we could set off to grow on. Might not seem much but even that much would be revenue coming in. Every little bit helps. Besides, if I can set that acre out as aqua-ponic growing, might do better off than one thinks for.

    After looking into it, well, it’s not worth the effort. You need to follow a highly strict protocol in growing, also need to join a state co-op, get registered via the D.E.A. You’ll pay out to the co-op to get the ‘correct’ seed, then likely pay out to the D.E.A to get the ‘rubber stamp’. Then you need to consider some dumb f*** setting out other stuff into your industrial hemp, or the D.E.A just randomly declaring you got ‘wrong’ seed or they ‘found’ your crops having more than acceptable THC content.

    Yeah, just another way for the government ‘in general’ to shake down anyone that might genuinely have need of some kind of economic help. It takes an investment and would even without the government overhead, yet with the government overhead it’s a lot more and therefore not viable. I understand a need of restriction. Not exactly knocking that yet when restriction is a gun to the head, kind not worth the poker hand.

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