It appears likely that by the end of September it could become legal to grow industrial hemp in Oregon. It will happen, that is, if the U.S. Senate votes this week to take part in a conference committee with the House of Representatives to work out differences between the two bodies’ omnibus farm bill legislation.
Hemp is not marijuana. It has many industrial uses. Don’t treat it like an illegal drug.
The Senate wrapped the Hemp Farming Act, sponsored by Kentucky Republicans Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, and Oregon Democrats Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, into its version of the larger farm bill before approving the latter in late June. The House bill squeaked through on June 21.
The House did not deal with hemp, and that’s one of the differences between the two that must be worked out. Hemp fiber, a non-intoxicating cousin of marijuana, has a variety of uses, from rope to clothing to providing cannabidiol for medicines.
If the House agrees, a couple of things will happen. Hemp will lose its listing on the federal Schedule-1 list of drugs, which includes heroin, LSD and ecstasy, as well as marijuana and hemp, both of which are already legal in Oregon.
That done, states and Indian tribes will be allowed to take over regulation of hemp, though they are required under the bill to turn a control plan over to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Industrial hemp also would be excluded from the Controlled Substances Act, giving growers access to banks and other financial institutions they don’t have now.
The changes could give more hemp growers reason to move to Central Oregon. Our dry climate is good for a crop that has mildew and mold problems, and hemp is drought resistant, suitable for the desert. Too, under current Oregon law, licensed growers can farm hemp without prior approval from either cities or counties.
The changes make sense. Hemp is not marijuana, and in Oregon, it must be tested to ensure that’s true. Remove the unnecessary federal restrictions on hemp.