SALEM, Ore. (July 10, 2015) – The Oregon Senate killed a bill that would have shut down the recently launched industrial hemp industry, ensuring that hemp farmers will be able to continue to growing their crops, further thwarting in practice the federal ban.
The Senate voted 13-17 against HB2668. The legislation would have essentially halted development of the state’s industrial hemp industry. Had it passed, the state would have suspended issuing new permits to grow hemp until 2017, revoked the 13 permits issued this year and then directed the state to reissue them with stricter guidelines. Passage of the bill would have required the destruction of at least one hemp field due to its proximity to a school.
Rep. Peter Buckley (D-Ashland) sponsored the legislation. The bill was originally intended to spur hemp production and completely removed state licensing requirements. But Buckley later shifted course. According to the Oregonian, he proposed provisions to the bill, including the suspension of licensing for new crops and stricter regulations for current license holders, after lobbyists for the marijuana industry began complaining.
Marijuana growers like Cedar Gay fear cross-pollination could ruin marijuana crops, leading to seedy plants with lower THC levels. This would lower the quality level of recreational marijuana and ruin plants intended for medical use.
“Any hemp industry that produces pollen around here is going to destroy the value of the highly bred local marijuana crop,” Grey told the Oregonian.
One hotly contested hemp farm near the town of Murphy sits in close proximity to several medical marijuana farming operations. Had the bill passed, Cliff Thompson would have had his license revoked, along with the other 12 current hemp farmers. But the Department of Agriculture would not have reissued his because the plot lies within 1,000 feet of a school. The bill would have made that illegal. Had HB2668 passed, Thompson would have had to rip out his plants.
Thompson called the bill’s failure “a victory for hemp farmers.” He also said his group would keep its commitment grow its male plants inside to avoid cross-pollination, according to the Oregonian.
Buckley claims federal law prohibits hemp cultivation within 1,000 feet of a school, and he wants state licensing requirements to adhere to federal statute. But his argument makes little sense. For all practical purposes, the feds prohibit hemp cultivation altogether.
Industrial hemp falls under the federal Controlled Substance Act of 1970. It technically remains legal to grow industrial hemp, but farmers must obtain a permit from the DEA, a nearly impossible feat. For all practical purposes, the feds maintain a policy of virtual prohibition. Oregon’s legalization of hemp effectively blocked the federal prohibition, opening the door for production and sales within the state despite federal regulations.
It appears Oregon will have to weather some growing pains as hemp farmers and marijuana growers learn how to coexist. Of course, the feds also maintain an absolute prohibition of cannabis. National Campaign Lead for Peace on our Streets Shane Trejo said hopes the various groups can work things out without resorting to more rules and regulations. But he also said he saw some positives in the situation.
“Who would have imagined a few years ago that marijuana and hemp farming would be to the point that they could even have these arguments? The important thing to remember is that both of these industries are developing in Oregon despite federal prohibition,” he said. “The fact that we can even have these kinds of debates shows how far things have come. This is how it should happen – states making their own decisions and developing their own policies.”