By Steve Elliott
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.