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Oregonian Hemp Farmers Await New Hemp Bill's Passage

The Oregon State Legislature approved improvements to the Oregon Industrial Hemp Program. Some farmers are excited for what this program can bring.

Posted: Mar. 6, 2018 6:47 PM

Chris Bourne works for the industrial hemp farm called Medisun Farms. Although this bill has not passed quiet yet, he is excited for when it does.

"I think it's a great thing. I think it's a great thing for the state. I think it’s a great thing for our country. Building infrastructure for the cultivation of hemp be it fiber, food, or medicine is a wonderful thing," Bourne said.

Although hemp and marijuana look very similar when planted, the two plants are used differently. The major difference is in the THC content, which is what gives you that ‘high’ when you consume marijuana. But hemp isn't used for getting high; it's often used to make things like clothes. The Chief of Staff for Oregon state representative Carl Wilson R- Grants Pass, Michelle Binker said industrial hemp has the potential to bring millions of dollars across the country.

“In my member's estimation this is possibly one of the more important bills passed this session. Experts say the market for industrial hemp could be 600 million dollars per year initially nationwide," Binker said.

Hemp has to test at .3% THC or below, which is considered low.

"If a farmer’s crop tests higher than that the entire crop is embargoed and possibly destroyed," said Binker.

“So you want to make sure that you are working with good breeders because seeds can be really expensive, up to a dollar or a $1.50 a seed if you're buying feminized hemp," Bourne added.

If Governor Brown signs this bill into law, it would establish a pilot program and allow the Oregon State University to make sure those seeds test .3% of below before farmers put them in the ground.

"So getting some certainty with respect to the hemp varieties that they are putting in the ground and getting some consistent results with testing so that they have confidence moving forward is going to be an immense boon to our farmers," Binker added.

"It starts to legitimize our industry even more. When you have a pilot program, we have access to organic certification which is wonderful. We have access to legitimate industrial hemp seeds and also the opportunity within the state of Oregon that if your crop is hot so to speak, over .3% you also have the opportunity to sell it into the OLCC system and to the dispensaries," said Bourne.

That's another reason some farmers and law makers are excited this bill is one step closer to becoming law. Blinker said she’s heard from medical marijuana patients that it's hard for them to find medicinal only dispensaries. She added hemp is often high in cannabidiol or CBD which she said often helps medicinal marijuana patients. This new bill would allow hemp farms to also cross into the OLCC market if they wanted to.

"Those additional CBDs can be made available to patients and be added in to marijuana products basically to enhance the variety of products available to people or consumers and also to give another outlet for our hemp producers," Blinker said.

This bill, which you can read here, passed in the Oregon State House and Senate Saturday, March 3rd. It will awaits Governor Brown’s signature.

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