DON’T SMOKE THE MESSENGER: The State of Hemp & CBD
When you search the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) database of Industrial Hemp Grower licenses, you find 1027 licenses registered with the state—probably more by the time you read this. There were 584 in 2018. That’s almost as many as Colorado. But we are surpassing Colorado’s hemp industry. We have a better climate and growing conditions. We have better growers. We have better processors and extractors. We have better hemp.
Seriously. I went to the Champs expo in Las Vegas this year. What used to be a glass and accessories show, this year transformed largely into a hemp-CBD product showcase. I asked many vendors if they had heard of Oregon hemp. Those who were just infusing industrial CBD-isolate into every possible product that might attract a curious or unwitting consumer didn’t really seem to care about the source of their product. Most admitted that they didn’t know much other than it was sourced from Colorado. But several booths were ecstatic to meet somebody from the Oregon hemp industry. Usually it was those with well-branded products or with that “craft” feel and those with actual nugs of hemp flower for sale. Irrefutably, those in the know are seeking out the next level products we are putting out. The secret will be out soon: Oregon hemp is the sh$*!
What about all the news lately about truck drivers getting arrested when they cross state lines carrying industrial hemp loads that are mistaken for THC-heavy cannabis? The 2018 Farm Bill requires the Department of Agriculture to create regulations that will oversee state hemp programs and states that “No State . . . shall prohibit the transportation or shipment of hemp or hemp products produced in accordance with subtitle G of the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 … through the State or territory.”
At this point, the US Department of Agriculture hopes to have a plan formulated by fall 2019 to prep for planting in Spring of 2020. But federal courts in Idaho and West Virginia got to be the lucky precedent-setters addressing these unclear issues and they made inconsistent rulings regarding legal interstate movement of hemp and hemp-derived products. Representatives from across the country and political spectrum have sent letters demanding clarification.
So where does that leave the actual hemp producers and product manufacturers? A recent study by High Yield Insights concluded 40 percent of U.S. adults are interested in trying CBD (cannabidiol). Many others already have. You can find CBD products (of varying sketchiness) at nearly every corner store. Walgreens, CVS and recently Rite-Aid all announced plans to carry CBD products in 2019, which former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb said is “not a good idea”. There is an FDA hearing scheduled for May 31st.
He conceded, however, that currently FDA action is minimal. “We’re using enforcement discretion right now . . . I will take enforcement action against CBD products that are on the market if manufacturers are making what I consider over-the-line claims. . . that it can cure cancer or prevent Alzheimer’s disease” will be subject to enforcement action “because that can mislead a patient into forgoing otherwise effective therapy.”
While the dust (pollen?) has not yet settled on hemp, it’s safe to say most of the powers-that-be seem to be acting “within the spirit of the law”, doing their best to expedite the process of making a full-blown industry where there wasn’t one before. For Southern Oregon and the rest of the state, I hope that means we are going to benefit from being leaders at the forefront of the world’s “newest” ancient industry.