Industrial hemp

Hemp grows in an Oregon field.

SALEM — The USDA has signed off on Oregon’s plan to regulate hemp production statewide, including licensing and testing requirements for growers and processors.

The revised plan was required to comply with new federal guidelines for hemp after the crop was legalized in the 2018 Farm Bill.

Hemp licensing will still be done by the Oregon Department of Agriculture, albeit with several changes for 2022. The biggest difference is mandatory background checks for key participants, said Sunny Summers, ODA cannabis policy coordinator.

Under the USDA rule, anyone convicted of a felony cannot participate in growing hemp for 10 years. House Bill 3000, signed by Gov. Kate Brown last year to crack down on illegal marijuana, allows ODA to conduct background checks for the hemp program in partnership with the Oregon State Police.

Summers said ODA is still developing the process for applicants to submit their fingerprints and complete the background check. Background checks are required for hemp growers, but not handlers.

The cutoff date for license applications is May 31. Growers must also register with their local USDA Farm Service Agency office and report the location and acreage of hemp planted.

Another significant change is a 30-day window for pre-harvest testing to ensure the crop does not exceed the threshold for THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol. THC is the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that gets users high.

Hemp cannot contain more than 0.3% total THC.

As of Jan. 10, Summers said ODA had not approved any hemp licenses for 2022. Oregon had 752 registered growers and 7,175 acres of hemp last fall.

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