Editorial 2/24-3/2 | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Editorial 2/24-3/2

Hemp Legislation - It's Time

Hemp sails brought Europeans to the new world. The Puritans grew it. George Washington grew it. Thomas Jefferson grew it. The Declaration of Independence was drafted on it. Covered wagons were made of it. U.S. currency was printed on it. During World War II, the U.S. government even launched a "Hemp for Victory" campaign. So what in the world happened that made hemp an outlaw crop in the U.S.?

Hemp is classified as marijuana under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act that made it illegal, even though it is not a recreational drug. The difference between hemp and marijuana is that hemp has a THC potency of less than one percent and is not psycho-active.

Hemp has broad industrial applications and can be used as a textile, bio-fuel, medicine, building material or food. Hemp seeds contain high levels of protein that can be used to make everything from flour to milk to veggie burgers. The U.S. hemp market reached $620 million in 2014, according to the non-profit Hemp Industries Association, using data compiled from conventional retailers such as Costco. Presumably, most of that hemp was imported from other countries since hemp cultivation is still illegal in the U.S. under federal law.

Oregon was one of the first states to see the bizarre nature of making hemp illegal to cultivate, yet legal to import, use and sell. Hemp farming became legal in Oregon in 2009, but barriers to cultivation and research slowed progress due to the federal ban and interpretation of the state law by the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

The Oregon Farm Bureau supports HB 4060 in the Oregon Legislature and the bill has passed the House and moved to the Senate. One of the key areas of interest to growers is in section 5 of the bill: A grower registered under ORS 571.305 may use any propagation method, including planting seeds or starts or the use of clones or cuttings, to produce industrial hemp. The bill would also make it legal to grow hemp in greenhouses.

On Feb. 2, an "Industrial Hemp Expo and Conversation" was held on Capitol Hill, sponsored by Oregon's Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Earl Blumenauer. "If it's legal to buy hemp products in Oregon, it ought to be legal for farmers to grow hemp in Oregon," Wyden said. "Today's 'Hemp on the Hill' Expo showed just some of the vast potential of the hemp industry, and I'm going to be working to build on the increasing momentum to pass the bipartisan Industrial Hemp Farming Act and lift the ban on industrial hemp farming in our country," Wyden said.

The Source asks Oregon senators to cast their aye votes for HB 4060 in the 2016 Oregon Legislature.

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