Oregon: Federal Lawmakers Urge State To Speed Up Industrial Hemp Program

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

U.S. Congress members from Oregon on Monday urged state agriculture officials to speed up a pilot project allowing farmers to begin cultivating industrial hemp crops in time for next year's growing season.

The federal lawmakers said in a letter that the program missed the 2015 growing season because of concerns in the Oregon Legislature over how hemp would coexist with the marijuana industry, which became legal for recreational use by adults in Oregon on July 1, reports Shelby Sebens at Reuters.

Industrial hemp cultivation faces a number of complications, including the fact that all forms of cannabis are federally illegal. Prosecutors have cautiously allowed state hemp experiments to inch forward.

In the letter, sent to Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba and Oregon State University Director of the College of Agricultural Sciences Daniel Arp, lawmakers said provisions in last year's Farm Bill allow states and universities to research potential benefits of commercial hemp cultivation.

"The potential for industrial hemp production represents a great opportunity for Oregon agriculture," the lawmakers wrote.

Oregon, which has issued 13 hemp licenses to farmers since adopting rules for the program in January, is reviewing the letter, according to Agriculture Department spokesman Bruce Pokarney. The agency is reviewing the letter, Pokarney saikd.

"I don't think there's any indication that we're not moving forward," Pokarney said defensively. Arp couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

State officials are currently visiting hemp farms to make sure they are in compliance with growing regulations. Farmers can grow hemp for a $1,500 licensing fee and testing to confirm their crop doesn't contain enough THC to get people high.

Industrial hemp grown in Oregon must, by law, contain less than 0.3 percent THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the principal high-inducing substance in cannabis.

Nineteen states nationwide have passed laws allowing industrial hemp production to various degrees. Last year, Kentucky, Colorado and Vermont became the first to report legal hemp harvests in at least half a century, according to the Hemp Industries Association.

While industrial hemp cultivation was discontinued due to marijuana prohibition in 1937, it was briefly revived due to the need for fiber during World War II.

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