PORTLAND — Oregon farmers could put in a crop of industrial hemp next spring if a panel of experts can satisfy federal officials with a set of tightly drawn rules.
The committee of agricultural experts and state policy officials has been selected by the Oregon Department of Agriculture and will come together in December, the Oregonian reported.
The committee hopes to set up a program that will meet what the federal government calls a "robust" standard, said Jim Cramer, a market and certification official in the department. He said the goal is to do so in time for planting.
Oregon is one of seven states with laws permitting industrial hemp -- a strain of marijuana with only a trace of the plant's psychoactive chemical.
Hemp's historic use has been for rope. These days it is put to hundreds of uses: clothing and mulch from the fiber, for instance, and foods such as hemp milk and cooking oil from the seeds, as well as creams, soap and lotions.
Oregon officials have held off implementing the state's 2009 law, saying they would wait until the federal government reclassified marijuana from a substance prone to abuse and lacking medicinal value.
That has not happened, but an opinion issued in late August explained the federal government's decision against challenging recreational marijuana laws in Washington and Colorado. The memo set priorities on marijuana and said a "robust" system for enforcing state marijuana laws is less likely to threaten federal priorities.
Cramer said his department sought written confirmation from the federal government that it would not oppose an industrial hemp program in Oregon, but it hasn't gotten a formal response.
"What we want is for the federal government to say these are robust," he said of the rules the group is drafting.
He said the committee is researching industrial hemp rules in Colorado, North Dakota and Canada. He said Oregon's rules will cover fees, hemp processing and testing that ensures the level of the plant's psychoactive chemical, tetrahydrocannabinol, is less than 0.3 percent.