Oregon Angling for Hemp Supremacy Among U.S. State Markets

By William SumnerHemp Business Journal Contributor

When discussing the expansion of the U.S. hemp market, much attention has been paid to states like Kentucky, since with backing from influential legislators like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Bluegrass State has been angling to become the largest hemp- producing state in the country.

However, Kentucky is not the only one with such ambitions. Oregon, too, has been aggressively expanding its statewide hemp industry.

As the 27th most populous of the 50 states, Oregon has a population of approximately 4.19 million people. Possessing a temperate climate, it is well suited for hemp cultivation, with the Willamette Valley and its southern region offering conducive conditions for production.

Unlike Kentucky, Oregon’s application period for cultivation licenses is year-round.  During 2018 and 2019, licensing fees cost $1,300 for cultivation sites of up to 100 acres, but for 2020, the state plans to lower those costs: Instead, growers will each pay a $250 registration fee, plus $500 per cultivation site.

While the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) is responsible for governing hemp production, the regulation of hemp products falls under the purview of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC).

According to the Hemp Business Journal’s newly released U.S. Hemp Market: 2019 States Ranking, Oregon in 2018 issued 568 grower licenses and planted approximately 7,808 acres of hemp. So far this year, it has licensed approximately 60,000 acres of land for hemp production.

Several factors have aided Oregon’s growth as a leading hemp producer: Notably, it is currently the only state on the West Coast to allow inclusion of hemp-derived CBD in food and beverages. By 2022, the Hemp Business Journal estimates U.S. CBD sales to exceed $2.2 billion, giving farmers strong incentive to cultivate hemp for CBD extraction.

The Oregon hemp industry also enjoys the support of both its local and federal legislators. In 2012, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) was among the first U.S. senators to introduce legislation to federally legalize hemp production. Working along with McConnell, Wyden was likewise instrumental in introducing language to the 2018 Farm Bill which federally legalized commercial hemp production in the U.S. after several decades of prohibition.

While Oregon may be the second-largest hemp producer in the United States, it is not without its issues. In August, its central region was pummeled by heavy hail storms, leaving behind an estimated $25 million loss to farmers, many of who reportedly lacked crop insurance despite eligibility for such protection as allowed through the 2018 Farm Bill.

Nevertheless, Oregon’s climate (both geographical and political) remains promising. Though the ODA initially lacked guidance and struggled in its hemp program’s first several seasons, the agency now works closely with the industry and is committed to its success. The ODA allows any genetics (so long as growers certify that they meet the 0.3%-or-less THC standard), and hemp can be grown for any purpose. The presence of a mature adult-use cannabis market has likewise helped Oregon become a leader for hemp extraction and seed genetics.

William Sumner

William Sumner is a writer for the hemp and cannabis industry. Hailing from Panama City, Florida, William covers various topics such as hemp legislation, investment, and business. William’s writing has appeared in publications such as Green Market Report, Civilized, and MJINews. You can follow William on Twitter: @W_Sumner.