Vt. attorney general OKs hemp bill

Chris Rizo Jun. 23, 2008, 12:11pm

Industrial hemp

MONTPELIER, Vt. (Legal Newsline)-Vermont could become the second state in the nation to allow farmers to grow hemp, following a ruling by the attorney general that a proposal to allow the crop is legal.

Gov. James Douglas, who opposed the bill, forwarded the legislation in June to the secretary of state for her to enact the bill into law without his signature.

But Secretary of State Deborah Markowitz said it was unclear whether state law requires the governor's signature or not.

She consulted with the office of state Attorney General William Sorrell.

William Griffin, chief assistant attorney general, said in a letter Friday to the secretary of state that the bill did not need the governor's signature to become law.

Some thought the so-called "pocket veto," a constitutional provision that allows a governor to squelch a bill simply by not signing it, applied in this case.

But Griffin said in his letter that the pocket veto does not apply since the governor did not return the unsigned bill to the Legislature. Instead, he forwarded it to the legislation to the secretary of state.

Griffin said the bill became law without the governor's signature because "the governor did not return it with objections."

Hemp fiber is used to make textiles, while hemp oil is used in food and beauty products.

While the new state law would allow farmers to grow the profitable crop, which is a benign cousin of marijuana, they won't be able fields of hemp since federal law classifies it as a Schedule I narcotic and prohibits its cultivation.

Some advocates say growing hemp could be a boon for Vermont's farm economy if the federal government relents on its ban on hemp cultivation.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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