- Associated Press - Thursday, February 19, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Southern Oregon farmers growing marijuana for medicine don’t want fields of pot’s prosaic cousin, industrial hemp, growing nearby.

They say cross-pollination could turn their high-grade buds into throwback, seedy marijuana, something out of the 1960s that takes forever to get a user high.

Southern Oregon is part of the Emerald Triangle pot-growing region that extends into Northern California.

Pot growers there say they were caught by surprise when a medical marijuana grower from the town of Eagle Point, Edgar Winters, got the first state permit to grow hemp, The Oregonian (https://bit.ly/1EtVlcd) reported.

Historically, hemp has been used to fashion rope, but now it is a component of clothing, food and cosmetics. Although it’s related to marijuana, it has negligible levels of the ingredient known as THC that makes marijuana intoxicating.

The Oregon Legislature legalized hemp farming in 2009, but the state didn’t write rules until it was clear the federal government wouldn’t interfere. Hemp is still illegal under federal law.

In the meantime, a public vote to legalize recreational marijuana also affirmed the legality of hemp.

Medical marijuana farmers have been raising crops openly and outdoors for years. They are protected by a provision in state law that allows patients to designate growers.

The southern Oregon farmers fear hemp pollen would find its way to their unpollinated female cannabis flowers, slowing their growth and leading to seeds. The result: weak pot.

“No one will buy seeded flowers, period,” said grower Cedar Grey of Williams. “The flower market is so competitive these days. You have to have world-class flowers. Anything that is seeded is reminiscent of the 1960s or pot from Mexico. No one is interested in that at all.”

Growers have suggested confining industrial hemp to the dry eastern part of Oregon.

Winters said he doesn’t see a major problem. The growing cycle for hemp is shorter than the one for outdoor marijuana, and an earlier harvest means no threat to cannabis, he said.

“It’s been doable all over the world,” Winters said.

But hemp advocate Anndrea Hermann says it’s a “hard pill to swallow” and acknowledges that the medical marijuana growers have reason to be concerned.

“Is there a risk? Yes, there is a risk to the marijuana growers,” Hermann said.

Hermann, who lives in Canada, teaches a course on the crop at Oregon State University, serves as president of the Hemp Industries Association and owns a hemp products company.

The state Agriculture Department’s program manager on hemp, Ron Pence, says it can regulate the location of some crops, but not industrial hemp.

Democratic Rep. Peter Buckley of Ashland says growers peppered his office with emails once Winters’ plans became public. He said lawmakers are exploring potential solutions to protect both crops.

“Nobody wants one crop to endanger another crop,” he said.

___

Information from: The Oregonian, https://www.oregonlive.com

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