Jackson County takes the crown as the hemp-growing capital of Oregon, but many local residents wonder where all those fields of flower will be sold.
“The vast majority of Oregon’s production is going out of state,” said Pete Gendron, president of Oregon SunGrowers’ Guild. “We just don’t have sufficient production capacity to handle the load.”
In fact, other states are clamoring for Southern Oregon’s hemp because of the high quality of the flower and rich flavor profile.
Gendron estimates that 70% of the crop will leave the state, partly because Oregon doesn’t have as many processing facilities as Colorado.
Even though hemp looks and smells like marijuana, it doesn’t have the active ingredient that gets you “high.” Hemp is prized for CBD, or cannabidiol, which many claim helps with pain, insomnia, anxiety and other problems.
Hemp is sold either as a smokable flower, particularly the top-grade varieties grown in Southern Oregon, or CBD is extracted and sold in liquid form or in edibles.
Gendron said he routinely ships to other states, and in some cases to other countries where it’s legal.
But getting hemp from Oregon to other states can be problematic, particularly if the shipment ends up on a loading dock in a municipality that still considers cannabis illegal.
Worse still, the shipments can end up stored outside or in hot warehouses for weeks or months, degrading its quality.
Some states have impounded shipments even if all the paperwork shows the hemp is perfectly legal. The 2018 Farm Bill made hemp a legal agricultural commodity nationwide.
According to the Idaho State Journal, two truck drivers this year faced a five-year sentence for transporting what authorities thought was the largest marijuana bust in state history.
After testing, it was determined it was industrial hemp from Oregon.
The case against the truck drivers still is making its way through the courts, with authorities arguing that while the Farm Bill legalized hemp, it didn’t establish a regulatory system for interstate transportation.
In another case earlier this year in Idaho, authorities seized 69 pounds Oregon-grown hemp, because it smelled like marijuana, and placed it in a storage facility, sending 1,800 grams to a testing facility in Kentucky.
When the results came back, authorities released the shipment, which had been in storage for six weeks.
Gendron said some states don’t have the labs to test the hemp and have been reluctant to send samples to another state for analysis.
That’s why he includes all the lab results and other documents in the package, he said.
To prepare for shipping, Gendron said he places the dried flower in a plastic bag, attaches a shipping manifest to the outside of the bag that includes lab results, and then wraps all of that in another sealed container that is put in the shipping box. The paperwork is for the customer on the other end.
He then puts another loose copy of the paperwork on top, just in case the box is opened in transit.
The hope is to prevent the seal being broken on the hemp bag because the product loses freshness when exposed to air.
For many out-of-state hemp stores, it’s sometimes worth a trip to Oregon to line up a shipment of hemp.
Robert Shade, owner of The Hemp Doctor in Moorseville, North Carolina, near Charlotte, said Oregon is famous for the quality of its hemp.
“That’s why I’m flying out there,” he said. “Oregon in general has a very good reputation.”
Shade said he hopes to meet with Southern Oregon growers this month in hopes of securing additional smokable hemp to sell in his store.
Regular marijuana is still illegal in his state, but he said his hemp store been welcomed by the community even though it’s in the middle of the Bible belt.
“The oldest couple in my store, she’s 94 and he’s 97,” Shade said.
Shade plans to spend most of his Oregon trip in Southern Oregon, where the bulk of the state’s hemp crop is grown. Jackson County is the largest producer of hemp in Oregon at 8,500 acres.
“The sole purpose of this trip is hemp flower,” he said. “They say they grow the best hemp in the world.”
Shade’s store sells about 175 pounds a year of hemp, but he’s hoping to double that by next year.
North Carolina farmers have struggled to grow top-quality flower.
He said one grower attempted to grow in greenhouses, but the excessive heat and humidity ended up destroying his crop.
Even if the crop survives the summer, the quality isn’t there, Shade said.
“It is so hot and humid that it just doesn’t finish well,” he said.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.