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State officials to begin testing hemp in southern Oregon for illegal marijuana

A bill passed during the last legislative session authorizes to state to check on registered hemp grow sites for THC content, an effort to crack down on unlicensed marijuana.

Posted: Jul 20, 2021 4:11 PM
Updated: Jul 21, 2021 6:27 PM

PORTLAND, Ore. — State regulators will start inspecting registered hemp grow sites in southern Oregon to evaluate whether they contain plants with elevated levels of THC, the active chemical in cannabis products.

Oregon Liquor Control Commission executive director Steve Marks indicated on Monday that a number of producers have started cultivating marijuana plants under the guise of growing hemp, which he linked to a "cartel takeover" in the industry.

With local law enforcement struggling to enforce state law in this environment of ambiguity, House Bill 3000 was signed into law this week in an effort to crack down on these issues. The OLCC passed temporary rules to accompany the legislation that establishes a limit on the level of THC that can be contained in a hemp-derived product, in addition to creating methods for testing hemp in the field.

According to the OLCC, state regulators will begin inspecting registered hemp grow sites in southern Oregon this week using THC field-testing units. State staff plan to brief local elected officials on those inspection plans later this week, as the inspectors start spreading out across Jackson and Josephine counties.

“Our objective through the remainder of the summer and into the fall is to make sure that every field gets these tests done,” said Marks.

Marks said that legitimate hemp farmers should not have anything to worry about.

“We’re really not trying to define what hemp is here: we’re really trying to spot check and take a minimum amount of samples to figure out what is commercial marijuana,” said Marks. “This will enable [the Department of Agriculture] or law enforcement to stop the illegal production of marijuana disguised as hemp production.”

Part of HB 3000 was a prohibition on the sales of "adult-use cannabis items" to minors, targeting a form of THC called Delta-8-THC. The OLCC said that this chemical can be produced from hemp and used to make products with higher potency levels than cannabis.

"However, Delta-8-THC was being sold outside Oregon’s regulated market and could be found at neighborhood convenience stores, where children could buy it," the agency said in a statement.

State agencies plan to set new potency and concentration limits for chemicals found in hemp products by January of 2022. The new legislation requires the establishment of tracking requirements for cannabinoid hemp products intended for human consumption, similar to those used in the recreational cannabis market.

"HB 3000 gives OLCC and ODA tools to target illicit production of hemp," the OLCC said. "Specifically around cannabis being illegally produced because it is unregistered or under the guise that it’s hemp. OLCC inspectors will support ODA’s staff, with law enforcement providing necessary protection and safety assessments to the joint inspection teams. Together the agencies will inspect hemp grow sites to test the crop’s THC levels to determine compliance with Oregon’s Hemp Program and, if necessary, take enforcement action, which could include crop destruction."

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 218689

Reported Deaths: 2855
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah41723618
Washington27764258
Marion24459332
Clackamas19888241
Lane14804174
Jackson12522155
Deschutes1052887
Umatilla950594
Linn624882
Yamhill506281
Klamath494179
Douglas446188
Polk429357
Josephine413675
Malheur366467
Benton345322
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Coos230439
Columbia208132
Union167124
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Lincoln153522
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Morrow122317
Clatsop116310
Baker109317
Curry77912
Tillamook7495
Grant5627
Lake4878
Harney45811
Wallowa2286
Gilliam871
Sherman862
Wheeler421
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Reported Deaths: 64386
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Riverside3079224659
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San Diego2950543798
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Sacramento1152001777
Kern1130711425
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San Joaquin769151460
Contra Costa75842832
Stanislaus657091091
Tulare50363854
Monterey44484528
San Mateo44477588
San Francisco40144561
Solano35703262
Santa Barbara35647467
Merced32961484
Sonoma32665330
Imperial29096745
Placer25146307
Kings23611250
San Luis Obispo21970265
Madera17024249
Santa Cruz16616207
Marin14825239
Yolo14801215
Butte13184205
Shasta12963242
El Dorado11063120
Napa1042082
Sutter10159126
Yuba698551
San Benito627463
Lassen588127
Tehama586466
Nevada535075
Humboldt504553
Mendocino468351
Tuolumne449573
Lake423865
Amador387048
Siskiyou256140
Glenn246427
Colusa235718
Calaveras230758
Del Norte16438
Inyo145338
Mono13255
Plumas7656
Modoc5737
Mariposa4987
Trinity4626
Sierra1290
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