Editorial: GOP walkout could leave hemp bills hanging – Bend Bulletin

Editorial: GOP walkout could leave hemp bills hanging - Bend Bulletin

No one knows for certain if Oregon Senate Republicans will leave the state in the next few days, denying their Democratic colleagues the quorum they need to do business.

If they do, some important pieces of legislation could be sidelined as a result.

Among them are a pair of bills that would make changes to the rules governing hemp growers in Oregon.

The changes in House Bill 4072 and Senate Bill 1561, while not completely identical, are important to growers of what’s becoming one of the most valuable crops in the state, and delaying them until the longer 2021 session does no one any good.

Most important, these bills would allow the state to get permission to continue having authority to oversee its hemp program.

To do that, it will have to present a plan to the federal government, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Both bills, for example, would require criminal background checks on those seeking hemp licenses.

Both also call for hemp production rules that are in line with federal rules.

Hemp’s growth as a crop in Oregon has had its problems, but it’s been pretty spectacular, just the same.

While it became legal to grow hemp in Oregon in 2010, the rules weren’t finalized until 2015.

That year, some 105 acres of commercial hemp were grown in the state.

By 2019, there were more than 63,000 acres of hemp being grown, making Oregon the second largest producer, behind Colorado, of hemp in the United States.

Hemp won’t become the crop for every farmer in Oregon.

It’s expensive to grow, and the market for it has been volatile, something that won’t change overnight.

Still, the bills in the Oregon Legislature will allow farmers to continue to grow hemp after October, when, without the changes in Oregon law, they’d have to get federal licenses.

That ups the ante on this pair of bills, something both parties should keep in mind.

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