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DON’T SMOKE THE MESSENGER: Growing Up Fast – Latest Hemp Seed Lawsuit a Learning Curve for Fledgling Industry

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I could cannavangelize for hours about the detrimental effects of cannabis prohibition. In fact, I do. Have you heard the weekly podcast I host, Local Smoke Radio?

Individuals, families and entire communities still suffer at the hands of cannabis prohibition and the war on drugs. And now that businesses and people from outside the traditional cannabis community have suddenly been allowed to take the plunge, we are going to witness some uniquely ugly results when it comes to overnight legalization of a plant that most people simply don’t know much about.

But, it’s here. No going back. And thank Ganjes, though the carnage is imminent. 

Last year, Oregon was home to a $21.2 million hemp seed lawsuit that started here in the southern production hub. To summarize, we all learned—or I thought we all learned—what happens if you start doing business and acting like a pro when you are not, in fact, a pro. Unstable feminized hemp seeds were sold and resold as seeds that would produce almost exclusively female plants. One plaintiff said they were even sold with claims of having “. . . an equal or better feminized rate.”

This year, though, the community got vigilant. Veteran cannabis growers are now leading the hemp gam, helping newly converted farmers (who often don’t even know what a male cannabis plant looks) like learn that you’ve got to diligently hunt and kill all male and hermaphrodite plants to prevent seeding your neighbors high-quality bud. Instagram has been flooded with posts about neighboring farms who won’t pull their males or warnings about which locations have issues with “hermed” plants.

Local non-profit, Farming & Agriculture Rights Management Society, Inc. (F.A.R.M.S. Inc.) even has this blaring PSA right on the front page of their website: ”WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! With over 4,500 hemp permits issued in 2019 by State of Oregon and outdoor seed breeding currently allowed by the Oregon Department of Agriculture, the biggest threat to craft cannabis farmers this season is hemp pollen. HAS HEMP POLLEN SEEDED YOUR CANNABIS CROP? INFORM US,” with a link to a cross-pollination page on the site.

With the most tightly-knit and self-policing cannabis production state in the game, you might expect the mistakes and issues would be few-and-far between aside from a few newbie farmers, right? You would hope sheisty players or get-rich-quickers would have taken a note from the legal pages of 2018’s playbook. But big lessons are often won hard and can quickly go beyond social media posts or comment threads to grab newspaper headlines and legal attention, again.

On September 29, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported “A Kentucky-based company that produces CBD has filed a $44 million lawsuit against an Oregon company it claims sold it nearly worthless hemp seeds that ruined a massive 2019 crop.” 

The message is now louder than a dank bag of fresh weed: It’s time to grow up.

Breeders and growers need to get responsible. DO NOT get in the game and start affecting other people’s livelihoods without doing some hardcore research or calling in knowledgeable reinforcements to mitigate crop-devastating issues. Regulators should ask the industry and community about the most important issues needing regulation and leave silly arbitrary issues like strict, criminal enforcement of the 0.3% THC definition. 

This is a plant. It’s not nuclear waste and it’s not rocket science.

@roogrostein hosts and produces the Local Smoke Radio Podcast. Visit LocalSmokeRadio.com for info.

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