Hemp growers will need OLCC permit to sell in dispensaries

Yon Olsen, owner of Cascadia Crest, organizes hemp plants at his facility east of Bend on Friday. (Ryan Brennecke/Bulletin photo)

Growers and processors of industrial hemp CBD will have to obtain a special license from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission if they want to sell their products in a licensed retail outlet under new rules being considered this month.

The rules are the outcome of 2018 Oregon legislation designed to apply the same standards as marijuana to CBD, or cannabidiol, products sold in OLCC-regulated shops.

Hemp businesses will still be able to sell their hemp or CBD products in regular stores without an OLCC license, said Matt Cyrus, a hemp farmer and president of the Deschutes County Farm Bureau.

“Hemp products are becoming more well-known, and within a year, I predict they’ll be in your big-box store,” Cyrus said. “I doubt I’ll spend the money on this permit to go into the OLCC market. I already sell on Amazon.”

Earlier in the year the OLCC stopped issuing certificates to hemp growers or handlers until the rules could be hammered out. The OLCC board will hear testimony Jan. 15 on the proposed rules, said Mark Pettinger, OLCC spokesman. The soonest the new rules can take effect would be after February, he said.

“These are a fairly comprehensive set of rules here,” Pettinger said. “This is the first iteration. It’s an immature industry. It’s still nascent phase as a commercially viable industry.”

It’s an important step in the legal cannabis industry that has seen more states make recreational and medical use legal and more states selling CBD accessible to consumers.

Industrial hemp has been an agricultural commodity for three years in Oregon.

With the newly approved federal 2018 Farm Bill, which removed hemp from the federal Controlled Substance list, some growers foresee demand from new markets, especially since Oregon is one of three main states where industrial hemp is grown. The other two are Colorado and Kentucky, Pettinger said.

Yon Olsen, owner of Cascadia Crest, a hemp farm on U.S. Highway 20, said the OLCC’s new rules would add another layer of protection for the consumer, who can be assured the products are tested.

A 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that out of 84 CBD products tested, 26 of the samples of oils, tinctures and liquids purchased online contained the amount of CBD claimed on the labels.

Industrial hemp and marijuana plants look the same, but the difference is that hemp contains less than 0.3 percent THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive agent that makes people feel high. In Central Oregon there are hemp farms in Sisters, Tumalo, Bend, Redmond, Prineville and La Pine.

There are 2,091 licensed cannabis producers, processors, wholesalers, laboratories and retailers in Oregon. The Department of Agriculture has 633 licensed industrial hemp growers and 200 industrial hemp handlers.

“Now that it’s legal, everyone is thinking they’ll jump in,” Olsen said. “I’m not anti-little guy. I’m for the rules and for everyone having a fully working farm.”

Big Top Farms owner Sykes Mitchell, who grows industrial hemp on 20 acres in Sisters, said he hasn’t decided if he’s going to obtain the OLCC certificate. Most of his business is out of state, said Mitchell.

“Oregon isn’t our only market,” Mitchell said. “We’re not looking to do a lot of business in Oregon. This is a special place for growing hemp.”

— Reporter: 541-633-2117, sroig@bendbulletin.com

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