By Benjamin Christensen (of Oregon Hemp Works)
For Oregon Cannabis Connection
Oregon has come a long way since Senator Floyd Prozanski’s SB676 was passed in 2009, allowing for the growing and production of industrial hemp in this state. However, it wasn’t until 2015 when Oregon actually started issuing permits. Our first year growing hemp in Oregon consisted of 13 permits; 9 of those permit holders actually planted. In 2016, 77 permits were issued, with an estimated 1,200 acres being grown here. Hemp. Legal. In Oregon!
Industrial hemp farms are found throughout Oregon, and more are taking interest in growing this “new” crop. Many of these farmers are growing plants that are bred to have low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels and high levels of cannabidiol (CBD). For cannabis to be classified as “hemp,” it must contain 0.3% THC (or less). CBD is non-psychoactive cannabinoid used in many medical applications. It is even sometimes given to pets for health conditions or as a dietary supplement. When being grown for high CBD content, plants are planted farther apart and harvested by hand. The flowers are processed for their resin, which is then used in topicals, tinctures, and other products.
Industrial hemp in Oregon is also grown for seed products: the seed itself, oil from the seed, and protein—which is a byproduct of oil production. Industrial hemp plants are grown close together and harvested with combines. Farmers are having to invent ways to make this work for their application by adapting and experimenting with different equipment. The seed is taken from this harvested plant matter, cleaned of debris, and sent to a processor. Once processed, it is sold to companies or even put on the market directly from the processor. I expect to see a strong hemp food industry coming out of Oregon.
While hemp has thousands of uses, not all of them can be taken advantage of with the current infrastructure. Cliff Thomason of OR Hemp Co, who is currently running for Oregon governor, is one of the farmers growing industrial hemp for seed. His field was planted with 17 pounds of hemp seed with an expected yield of 1500 pounds of seed. At $4 a pound wholesale, that’s a $6,000 per acre.
I don’t see this state, or even this country, processing hemp for textiles anytime soon, considering the fierce competition there would be with China. It would be extremely hard to invest the millions needed for the factories while keeping the price of a garment affordable. I do see a future in Oregon for animal bedding and hurd (the soft inner core of hemp) for hempcrete. Hempcrete is a building material that consists of chopped hemp hurd mixed with a lime-based binder and water. This is the basic recipe with variations that can include cement.
Hemp plastic is also something we can produce in Oregon. It’s currently not here, but Green Spring Technologies out of Fort Worth, Texas, is currently doing 3D printing and injection molding with domestically grown hemp. They offer hemp plastic pens and business card holders available at my company Oregon Hemp Works (www.OregonHempWorks.com).
“I’m excited to be part of this new industry where we can create Oregon jobs and help people,” said
Jerry Norton of American Hemp Seed Genetics and New Earth Bioscience. He was one of Oregon’s first permitted hemp farmers who grows hemp for both CBD and industrial products. “I expect to see a price drop in CBD due to supply and demand. It’s the consumers who will really benefit from this.”
As someone with a company that produces soaps, lotions, massage oils, and even deodorant—all made of hemp—I am extremely excited about having oil produced here. I’ve been waiting six years to make our products out of Oregon-grown hemp.
What can you do to support this growing industry? Buy hemp products when you see them. This helps create the demand and, in turn, will fuel this industry. A booming hemp industry will help us all. Support hemp!
Benjamin Christensen is the owner of Oregon Hemp Works, Portland NORML’s Hemp Ambassador, and the social media assistant for Hemp Industries Association.
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