SALEM — The plants of two farmers under Oregon’s fledgling hemp industry tested slightly above the federally designated limit that distinguishes hemp from its close cousin, marijuana.
Thus the growers were found out of compliance and their plants remain embargoed by the state.
Bend area hemp farmer Michael Hughes’ plants grown in 2015 have been embargoed by the state because some of them tested slightly above the 0.3 percent legal THC threshold.
Under a definition set by Congress, hemp plants contain anywhere from 0 to 0.3 percent THC, the product in cannabis plants that produces a high effect. Marijuana has anywhere from 0.4 to around 30 percent THC.
Under the federal definition of hemp, Hughes’ field in Alfalfa contained low-THC marijuana plants, and the state is still deciding how to proceed.
“I tried to explain. They’re of no value to us,” Hughes, who is also a medical marijuana grower, said in December. “If I tried to give that to a patient the patient would beat me up.”
Hughes also says he was told by the state he could potentially face criminal prosecution for the plants, though Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel said in December he hadn’t heard anything about potential charges.
Lindsay Eng, the Department of Agriculture employee overseeing the hemp program, said via email she couldn’t speak for this story. She confirmed in a later email Hughes’ and one other grower’s plants tested above the legal limit.
The plants that were over the limit will be destroyed, Eng said, while the others that tested under the 0.3 percent limit may be eventually be given back to the farmers but remain under embargo. Eng didn’t respond to follow-up questions.
Oregon hemp farmers were left to find seeds on their own last year, which was tricky given that federal law prohibited them from receiving seed even if it was from another state where hemp is also legal.
Federal law also prevented hemp farmers from getting seeds from other countries where hemp was never prohibited, which have seed varieties that nearly guarantee stable, low THC plants. Hughes said he’s trying to breed a stock of seed varieties that will produce high amounts of CBD oil, a potentially highly profitable product that some believe can treat and cure ailments including cancer, and low THC. CBD is also found at low quantities in marijuana plants and doesn’t produce psychoactive effects.
“We want the no THC (varieties),” Hughes said. “This (variety that tested over the limit) is a cultivar we want to eliminate from our breeding program.”
— Reporter: 406-589-4347,