One researcher, two potential growers, three product handlers and two state cops are among the people who will serve on Oregon’s industrial hemp advisory committee.
The group was appointed by the state Department of Agriculture to draft rules for growing and selling hemp, which advocates believe has wide food, fiber and oil uses and could be a lucrative alternative crop for farmers. The committee met for the first time Dec. 17. It hopes to develop rules for cultivating and handling industrial hemp by early 2014.
Members are Tomas Endicott of Willamette Biomass Processors, Gerry Shapiro of Merry Hempsters and Tim Pate, all described as handlers; growers Charles Ortiz and Rick Rutherford; Ian Tolleson of the Oregon Farm Bureau; Fred Testa and Matthew Lawson of the Oregon State Police; Hillary Barbour of U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s office and Kevin Moore of state Sen. Floyd Prozanski’s office; and Russ Karow, chair of the Crop and Soil Science Department at Oregon State University.
The Oregon Legislature legalized hemp cultivation in 2009, but the law was never implemented because federal law classified hemp the same as marijuana. Industrial hemp is low in THC, the agent that makes pot smokers high.
In August, the U.S. Department of Justice said it would not prosecute cases in states such as Washington and Colorado that have legalized pot and established a strong regulatory program. The U.S. attorney for Oregon said that means hemp is legal as well, because it was classified the same as pot.
The law passed by the Legislature requires all growers and handlers to get a license from the ag department, and said hemp fields have to be at least 2.5 acres. Ag inspectors would be allowed to take plant samples and test for THC levels. The cropwide average could not exceed .3 percent; pot has THC levels ranging from 5 percent to 20 percent, according to various sources.