GRANTS PASS, Ore. -- Hemp is a rapidly growing industry in southern Oregon and Josephine County is trying figure out how to handle the farms. About 200 people went to a Hemp Symposium organized by the Josephine County Commissioners. The goal of the symposium was to start a conversation about how the hemp industry is impacting the community.
Josephine County resident Daryl Jackson was one of them. He drives by hemp farms everyday.
"I'm very concerned about the misues of water and the illegal use of water," said Jackson. That was the main reason he went.
Josephine County Commissioner Darin Fowler said that is what sparked a need for the symposium. Multiple concerned residents have been coming to the commissioners worried that some hemp farmers were illegally taking water from nearby streams and from them.
"The enfourcement is just not there," Commissioner Fowler said. "[The agencies involved] don't have the staffing and so they come to us for solutions as County Commissioners but we just don't have the authority to do anything."
Luke Doyle works on his family's company, Murphy Hemp and Wellness. He said they farm, process and sell hemp in their retail stores. He believes some of this anixety stems from their concerns from what happened when the marijuana industry boomed.
"A bad taste was left in a lot of people's mouths and they probably don't want that happening with hemp farmers," Doyle said.
Representatives from the Oregon Department of Agriculture, Josephine County Watermaster, the Department of Environmental Quality, Pacific Power, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Department of State Lands, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, the Josephine County Community Development, OSU- Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, and the Oregon Water Resources Department all explained their roles in the hemp industry.
NewsWatch 12 tried to speak with the representative from the Oregon Water Resources Department. He declined to speak on camera. During the Q&A portion of the symposium, he said the agency was doing what it could to stop the illegal use of water issue.