The dispensaries want to sell the oil as a treatment for children who suffer from seizures and other neurological symptoms, according to Lindsay Wells, marijuana program administrator at the Department of Public Safety.
Wells and Jeffrey Wallin, director of the Vermont Crime Information Center, are asking lawmakers to change existing state statutes to allow dispensaries to grow hemp.
At a hearing Thursday, members of the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules learned the difference between hemp, marijuana and cannabis. Cannabis refers to the three different varieties of plants that produce marijuana and hemp. Hemp contains less than 0.3 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol at dry weight, while marijuana has more than 0.3 percent THC, Wells said. THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that produces its euphoric effect. Hemp contains more of the compound cannabidiol (CBD), which helps with certain medical treatments. Medical marijuana grown by the dispensaries to treat pain, nausea and other conditions contains a higher level of THC than hemp.
Hemp for this purpose must be grown outside, unlike medical marijuana, Wallin said, and farm production of the plant for hemp oil requires a lot of acreage, he said.
State officials want lawmakers to consider allowing dispensaries to grow hemp behind fences to deter people from stealing the plants.
Despite the lower THC levels in hemp, it is still listed as an illegal drug under the controlled substance act of 1970. Jonathan Page, a University of British Columbia botanist, said in a statement Wednesday that knowledge about hemp is lacking because of its status as a controlled substance.
A person cannot get high from smoking hemp because the THC levels are too low to produce an altered state of consciousness, according to a 1998 report for the North American Industrial Hemp Council.
The proposed rule was submitted to LCAR on May 10 and a hearing was held June 19. The public comment period for the proposed rule ended July 26.
The LCAR board members voted to postpone their decision on the rule until their next meeting, Sept. 10.