State regulators have issued the first license to grow industrial hemp in Oregon, and the Eagle Point man who got it says he has everything ready to go — except something to plant.
Growers will have to import seed to grow the state’s first crop of the practical cousin of marijuana, but it’s not clear from where.
Canada, Russia, Hungary, Australia and New Zealand are mentioned as possible import sources for seeds to grow a crop that has long been outlawed in the United States, with seed imports blocked by federal agents.
“We have to import to get started,” the new licensee, Edgar Winters, told the agricultural publication Capital Press. “We don’t want our farmers to sit around another year.”
The Legislature legalized growing hemp in 2009, but the state held off writing rules until the federal government signaled it wouldn’t crack down on well-regulated crops. The state Department of Agriculture finished the rules earlier this year and said it was ready to issue licenses, costing $ 1,500 for three years.
Officials at the agency and at Oregon State University say they are working with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration on the question of getting seed — a question faced last year by two states in the forefront of efforts to bring hemp into commercial production.
In Kentucky, the state Agriculture Department sued to get the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to release seeds imported from Italy. In Colorado, state regulators looked the other way as growers obtained seeds on their own.
Late last year, Kentucky officials said they were heartened by a provision in the new federal budget bill that was aimed at keeping federal drug officials from interfering with hemp research and development projects designated by state governments. The provision was supported by Mitch McConnell, the U.S. senator from Kentucky who is now majority leader and a proponent of hemp production.
Hemp has only a negligible amount of the chemical that causes a high among marijuana users.
Historically, it was grown for rope. Advocates say it could be used in a variety of products, such as clothing, food and cosmetics. As many as 18 states, including Oregon, have removed barriers to production, but starting an industry has proved slow-going.
Warehousing and processing facilities will be ready to go when an Oregon crop is harvested in late summer, Winters said.
“We are in position to do 40 tons a day at our processing mill,” he said. “We’ve got our ducks in a row.”
— The Associated Press