Oregon: Department of Agriculture Gives Farmers the Green Light to Grow Industrial Hemp – Seeds to be Sown in Spring 2015
By Amy Peradotta, M.P.A. (Special to Hemp News)
In a phone interview on January 29th, Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) Operations Manager, Ron Pence confirmed, "the rules were filed by the ODA with the Secretary of States Office and were requested to become effective upon filing.” This is great news for anyone interested in growing industrial hemp in Oregon this year. Although a few details still need to be worked out, if all goes as planned, this spring Oregonians will be planting the first legal hemp crop in the state since 1957.
As early as next Monday, February 2, 2015, licenses will be available for anyone who wants to grow hemp in Oregon. Licenses are valid for three years and cost $1,500. While proponents have not been happy about the prohibitive cost of the licensing fee, many are still planning to move forward. The license application form will be available online the week of Feb. 2-6, 2015 on the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s website. Interested growers can download the application, complete the form, and mail it in to the Oregon Department of Agriculture along with the licensing fee of $1,500.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Rules Advisory Committee on Industrial Hemp have been working extensively on this rule making process since Senate bill 676 passed the Oregon Legislature in 2009. According to the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s website, the Rules Advisory Committee is comprised of representatives from Oregon State University, Oregon State Police, representative staff from the offices of State Senator Floyd Prozanski, and US Representative Earl Blumenauer, as well as potential growers and handlers of the crop.
Pence acknowledged that submitting the rules was an “important step in Oregon’s hemp industry”. But he also noted that the next challenge he faces is “gaining the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) approval to import the seeds”. He is currently in the process of filing the DEA permit, so he can secure the seeds for this year’s crop.
Since hemp is part of the cannabis sativa L. family, it is still considered a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. That is why under federal law, acquiring hemp seeds is considered “importing a Schedule 1 substance,” and requires a DEA permit.
It should be noted that there are two bipartisan bills (HR 525 and S134) in Congress right now aimed at removing hemp from the Schedule 1 category of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. If these bills are signed into law, the DEA application process will be eliminated, and farmers will have more access to seeds they need, when they need them.
Oregon is home to several businesses that are poised to benefit from the domestic production of hemp. Oregon Hemp Works, The Merry Hempsters, Pacific Foods, and Living Harvest are just a few businesses in Oregon that are currently importing their hemp seeds and oil from Canada, and/or other nations with existing legal hemp industries.
According to the Hemp Industries Association (HIA), a non-profit trade association consisting of hundreds of hemp businesses, the US grossed nearly $581 million in hemp retail sales in 2013, and that figure is growing annually by 24%.
Once Americans are able to domestically produce hemp for fiber, seeds, and oil on a large scale, the prohibitive price of hemp should level out and be more competitive and affordable. A domestic market will allow hemp to become a viable option for many rather than just a few.
Ultimately, the fate of the 2015 Oregon hemp crop will depend on how timely the DEA approves the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s application to import the seeds. Fortunately, Kentucky helped blaze this trail last year when the DEA held their hemp seeds hostage at customs as they arrived in the US from Italy. In turn, the state of Kentucky filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Louisville against the DEA, the Department of Justice, Customs and Border Protection, and Attorney General Eric Holder. Kentucky sued for the return of their 250-pound shipment of hemp seeds and won.
Last year, Kentucky, Colorado, and Vermont all planted and harvested successful hemp crops. Vermont finished their harvest in October, and it turned out to be their largest harvest of legal hemp in over 60 years. The American Seed & Oil Company contracted two Vermont State licensed growers to grow enough seed for them to build a legal seed depository with this crop. The company is also planning for a 1,000-acre hemp crop to be planted in 2015.
These three states paved the way for others to follow, and 2015 is looking brighter than ever for hemp to make a comeback. Hopefully Oregon officials will not encounter the same DEA issues as Kentucky faced with their seeds. But if they do, maybe the good people of Vermont can point them in the right direction.
Hemp is marijuana’s lesser-known, non-psychoactive cousin, and is distinctly unique from marijuana. Instead of offering a high like marijuana, hemp is grown for its fiber, seeds, and oil. These raw materials can be made into thousands of products ranging from construction materials, paper, and biofuels, to food, body care items, and even super capacitor batteries and airplanes (and the list goes on and on).
Although both plants contain some amount of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol - the compound that gives users a high) the difference is that hemp only produces .3-1% THC, whereas typical American grown marijuana produces anywhere from 10-20% THC. As a result, hemp cannot get anyone high because it simply doesn’t produce enough THC to do so.
Please visit the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s website for more information on:
Photo: Photo of harvested Kentucky hemp “shocks” from the Christian County, Kentucky crop of 2014. This is the traditional method of stacking harvested hemp in the field, allowing it to dry. Photo courtesy of the Kentucky Hemp Industries Association, taken on October 14, 2014.
Amy Peradotta is a hemp researcher, writer, and advocate based in Portland, Oregon. She earned a Master of Public Administration degree from Southern Illinois University in 2008. Her master’s thesis focused on the arguments surrounding the legalization of the hemp plant, and highlighted its potential to revive the rural farming communities of southern Illinois. She can be reached for questions or comments at: amyperadotta at gmail.com, and you can follow her on Twitter@amyperadox.