University of Virginia researching hemp, medical marijuana

Hemp growing at an undisclosed location in the Shenandoah Valley
By  | 

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — The University of Virginia is researching hemp and medical marijuana in collaboration with a plant biotechnology company.

Virginia biology professor Michael Timko says the research looks to renew the state as a leading producer of hemp and restore land depleted by tobacco and mining. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Sunday that the first successful harvest of hemp plants was completed.

The harvest is one of several private-public partnerships conducting the research across the state. It comes after the first year of a three-year, $1.1 million sponsored research agreement between the university and 22nd Century Group Inc.

22nd Century Group's website says it is a plant biotechnology company with subsidiaries that manufacture products including commercial tobacco products, potentially less harmful cigarettes and cannabis-based products for human health.

Researchers at James Madison University have been studying hemp for years now, using the largest industrialized hemp field in Virginia, located in the Shenandoah Valley.

Industrialized hemp is categorized with marijuana as a schedule one controlled substance, but differs in that it has a lower level of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

Hemp can be used in food, to make oil, and even make clothes, but is not allowed to be commercially grown in the United States.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte recently visited JMU's hemp field, where he expressed support for H.R. 3530, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2017.

The bill would remove industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act.