Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon are working to get hemp removed from a federal list of illegal controlled substances.
Oregon’s contingent of hemp farmers could soon find it easier to work with banks and university extension offices as two unlikely allies on Capitol Hill ramp up efforts to legalize the close cousin of marijuana.
With a bill before Congress, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, hope to pull hemp from a federal list of controlled substances, a move aimed at opening a lucrative market dominated by foreign farmers to more U.S. growers.
Oregon already has a robust hemp industry that boasts almost 500 growers in the 2018 calendar year, including a combined 45 in Marion and Polk counties, according to state data. But that doesn’t mean they’re treated like farmers growing classic Oregon cherries or Christmas trees.
MORE: Trump agrees to leave state-legal pot programs alone
Because hemp remains federally illegal, banks generally shy away from growers, as do federally-funded university extension offices whose officials may otherwise be able to identify pests threatening the crops, said Sunny Jones, the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s cannabis policy coordinator.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell inspects a piece of hemp taken from a bale of hemp at a processing plant in Louisville, Ky., Thursday, July 5, 2018. McConnell is leading the push in Congress to legalize hemp. (AP Photo/Bruce Schreiner) (Photo: Bruce Schreiner, AP)
Meanwhile, nearly 150 handlers are registered to transform raw hemp into something marketable like cannabidiol (CBD) extract. Hemp has only minuscule amounts of psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as THC.
Shoppers can find hemp in any number of products, from shampoos to hoodies to snacks. Farmers in Oregon primarily grow hemp for CBD production, Jones said. The state doesn’t produce hemp fiber, for instance, as that requires specialized equipment that’s just not available here yet.
OPINION: Rapid Response: Should federal government step back, let states legalize pot?
Retailers across Oregon can sell hemp…