Wyden, McConnell seek to legalize hemp in US

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.

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.

Senator Ron Wyden visited the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm last Thursday in Woodburn to discuss the latest in hemp farming and the potential impact of his hemp legislation for Oregon farmers.

Senator Ron Wyden visited the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm last Thursday in Woodburn to discuss the latest in hemp farming and the potential impact of his hemp legislation for Oregon farmers.

Sen. Wyden’s office

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…

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