Oregon Error Could Force State to Revoke Hemp Licenses

For all the forward motion caused by state votes on reform, there have been some obvious and rather egregious oops and misses as markets and regulations become more formalized.

In Oregon, where voters went to the polls last November to legalize the nation’s next recreational market, the process has hit a bit of an avoidable snag. The state may have to revoke all 13 licenses it has already issued to grow industrial hemp after the Oregon Department of Agriculture admitted error in that they had neglected GPS locations when making these determinations.

The market in Oregon is more like Northern California than Colorado. Large outdoor grows have been a staple here for a long time – legit or not. Now, according to the local newspaper, the Register-Guard, outdoor THC growers are complaining (loudly and at this point successfully) that hemp fields near their production facilities could potentially reduce the THC levels in the marijuana they grow. This in turn would render the crops less valuable.

The licenses were also apparently issued in violation of the state Agriculture Department’s existing rules as the accidental cross pollination of adjacent crops is hardly a new problem – albeit in this case a bit more tinged with THC.

That said, this argument appears to be opening a can of worms that is not easily addressed. The proposed amendments to the situation would replace the 13 licenses with six research permits to be issued for hemp fields no closer than five miles from an approved marijuana cultivation site. Current proposals also ban new hemp licences in the state until the end of 2017.

This approach in turn has now generated critics who claim that this approach will effectively kill the hemp industry in Oregon. Opponents of the current proposal include a Josephine County commissioner who has said that the five-mile buffer zone now being considered would make planting hemp in her county impossible altogether, particularly because there are already a very high number of marijuana grow sites in the county.

Oregon has, for the past two years, since the passage and subsequent devolvement of the Washington State market in particular, clearly led the way on parsing some of the harder to reach if not arcane nuts and bolts of moving a comprehensive and inclusive market forward. However, these developments, while undoubtedly dramatic locally, will probably be limited to the state. Most new state authorized grows, particularly on the East Coast, but also seen in Nevada, require medical marijuana at least to be grown indoors where these issues are less of a problem. In states like Colorado, the legal market for both rec and medical use is mostly grown indoors.

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