Relaxed Oregon hemp rules pass House

Hemp growing in Oregon's Willamette Valley in 2015. A bill in the Oregon Legislature would make indoor cultivation of hemp legal, and make other changes in rules regulating the crop.

SALEM — Oregon hemp growers would be free to propagate the crop from cuttings and propagate it from cuttings under a bill that’s won the approval of House.

Under current law, hemp can only be seeded directly outdoors in fields at least 2.5 acres in size, which was intended to facilitate industrial production but proved too inflexible for growers.

At the time Oregon lawmakers originally legalized hemp production in 2009, they enacted these restrictions with the expectation the crop would be used for oilseed and fiber instead of human consumption.

Since then, the Oregon Department of Agriculture found that many hemp producers were more interested in growing the crop for cannabidiol, a compound used for medicinal purposes, than for such traditional products.

To this end, they wanted to use greenhouses, clone desirable plants and produce the crop on a smaller scale.

Under House Bill 4060, which was passed 54-4 by the House on Feb. 16, the minimum 2.5 acre field requirement would be scrapped and hemp farmers would be given the same flexibility in production and propagation methods as growers of other crops.

The Oregon Farm Bureau supports HB 4060 because it wants hemp treated like other crops.

The bill includes an amendment approved by the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources that clarifies hemp would be subject to the same Oregon Department of Agriculture water and pesticide regulations as other crops.

The amended version of the bill also clarifies that growers can cultivate all varieties of hemp and that the crop won’t be considered a food adulterant, among other provisions.

Growers can also send crop samples to accredited laboratories for required testing, which is expected to be cheaper than using ODA staff and facilities.

The Senate will now consider H.B. 4060, though it has yet to be assigned to a committee.

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