U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley touted the 2018 Farm Bill and what it means for Oregon and hemp production during Friday’s sixth annual Governor’s Luncheon in Pendleton.
Held at Blue Mountain Community College, the luncheon was put on by the Eastern Oregon Women’s Coalition and attended by more than 100 people.
Also speaking at the luncheon were Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and Oregon Treasurer Tobias Read. Gov. Kate Brown was unable to attend.
“In Oregon, we have a crop that nobody was growing two years ago,” said Merkley, drawing some snickers from the audience. “And I’m not talking about cannabis. I’m talking about hemp.”
And though hemp does come from cannabis plants, it does not have THC, the chemical that produces psychoactive effects. Instead, hemp has many commercial uses such as textile products and food, as well as medicinal uses due to its CBD, a chemical touted for its putative health and general wellness benefits.
As a result of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp is no longer classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic with other, harder drugs such as heroin. Since Jan. 1 of this year, it has been legal to cultivate hemp.
Advocates of hemp, including Merkley, say Oregon is the perfect place for hemp production because the state is situated on the 45th parallel, which makes for an ideal growing environment.
Merkley told those at the Governor’s Luncheon that he expects hemp to be a billion-dollar industry soon and wants to help Oregon lead the way.
“Oregon is going to be the foremost producer of hemp in the country,” he said.