Oregon became the 17th state to pass legislation favorable to hemp farming and the ninth state to remove legal barriers to farming the potentially lucrative crop as Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D) last week signed into law SB 676, an industrial hemp act sponsored by state Sen. Floyd Prozanski (D). The bill removes all state legal obstacles to growing hemp for food, fiber, and other industrial purposes. Industrial hemp production remains prohibited under federal law.
"I am glad that Oregon has joined the other states that have agreed that American farmers should have the right to reintroduce industrial hemp as an agricultural crop," said Prozanski. "By signing SB 676 into law, which passed the Oregon Legislature with strong bi-partisan support, Governor Kulongoski has taken a proactive position allowing our farmers the right to grow industrial hemp, to provide American manufacturers with domestically-grown hemp, and to profit from that effort."
"Oregon's federal delegation can now take this law to the US Congress and call for a fix to this problem, so American companies will no longer need to import hemp and American farmers will no longer be denied a profitable new crop," said Patrick Goggin, director of the industry lobbying group Vote Hemp. "Under current federal policy, industrial hemp can be imported, but it cannot be grown by American farmers. Hemp is an environmentally-friendly crop that has not been grown commercially in the US for over fifty years because of a politicized and misguided interpretation of the nation's drug laws by the DEA."
Hemp is a member of the cannabis family, but is distinguished from smokeable marijuana by its low THC content and its lanky, fibrous appearance. The Oregon law specifies that industrial hemp must contain less than 0.3% THC. So does pending federal legislation, HR 1866, sponsored by Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), which would remove low-THC hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and thus the DEA's domain.
According to the industry trade group the Hemp Industries Association, annual retail sales for hemp products in the last year were approximately $360 million. Because of the DEA ban on domestic hemp production, every ounce of hemp used in those products had to be imported.
The eight other states that have removed barriers to hemp production or research are Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia. Oregon joins North Dakota as the only states that do not require farmers to obtain federal permits from the DEA to grow hemp.