SALEM, OR. 28 May, 2015. After pressure from medical marijuana growers, Oregon lawmakers acted on Wednesday to revoke the state’s first industrial hemp growing licenses. Proposed amendments to House Bill 2668 would terminate all thirteen hemp licenses and instead allow six “test plots” throughout Oregon. New hemp grow sites would be banned until the end of 2017.
Rep. Peter Buckley (D- Ashland), who drafted the amendment, said it aims to correct the “haphazard approach that we’ve taken so far in introducing hemp.” The move comes after pot growers expressed concerns that cross-pollination could reduce their crop potency. Industrial hemp is a cousin of marijuana that has very low levels of THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis that creates a “high”. Pot growers claim valuable marijuana crops could be ruined if cross-pollination lowers the plants’ THC content.
Mark Gatlin, a Grants Pass city councilor claimed, however, that the amendment “is designed to kill this industry.” Critics say Buckley’s amendment could potentially cause farmers to miss three more growing seasons. The House Rules Committee did not approve the HB2668 amendments on Wednesday and are also considering a more hemp-friendly amendment.
Cross-pollination has been a long-standing issue in the Willamette Valley, placing farmers who want to grow canola at odds with established specialty seed and vegetable farmers. The specialty farmers fear their crops would be pollinated by canola. Oregon’s 2009 hemp law did not pave the way for co-existence between the marijuana and hemp crops. Lawmakers “made the assumption in 2009 that possible conflicts with medical marijuana would be addressed by the Department of Agriculture,” Buckley said. “We want to set up good areas for growing hemp, without damaging anyone else.”
Some of the existing license holders could qualify to become a hemp test site or they will receive reimbursement of their set-up costs.