At the Cedar Circle Farm in East Thetford, hundreds of different fruits, vegetables and plants are for sale.
"We grow about a 150 different kinds of vegetables -- 50 different kind of tomatoes alone," said the farm's Manager, Will Allen.
Allen wants to add another crop -- hemp. Experts say it's in the same family as marijuana but lacks potent levels of the chemical THC -- which gets you high. "We want to learn how to grow hemp because down the road, we think it is going to be a really important crop. In the short term it might be a legal nightmare," Allen said.
Because hemp is illegal under federal law, growing it here on the farm would just be too risky. In fact, it could put the entire business in jeopardy. Allen's had a run in with the feds before. In 2009, he was a among of group of protestors who planted hemp on the lawn of DEA headquarters. They were all arrested. And just because Vermont is moving closer to legalizing hemp cultivation -- a bill has passed both the House and Senate -- there is no stopping federal officials from coming into the state and shutting down the operation and possibly seizing the land.
Governor Peter Shumlin supports hemp production in Vermont but says it's tough to protect those who grow it. "We just don't have an answer to that. There are some others states that are considering adopting this policy, " he said. "The federal law doesn't make much sense, so we don't know exactly what the federal enforcement would be, and farmers would have to grow it at their own risk."
It's a plant that the advocacy group Rural Vermont has tried to legalize for years. "What we're hearing from the folks at the federal level who are working to pass legislation there, is that passing bills at the state level is providing momentum for the federal," said the group's Andrea Stander.
In the meantime, Allen has a plan. Start a new farm with a group of investors dedicated solely to growing hemp. "What we will do is buy another piece of property locally and grow hemp on that and put that property at risk," he said.
Risk that he says shouldn't be there in the first place because hemp seeds, oil and fabric are already sold legally in the U.S. And all come from the plant. "If we are going to get stoned ingesting hemp, why are they selling it in the local store," Allen said.
A question he poses as the hemp plant highlights a divide between federal and state law.
The Governor has not announced when he plans to sign the hemp bill into law. WCAX-TV asked for a comment from U.S. Attorney for Vermont, Tris Coffin, but did not get any immediate response.
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