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Feds are key to hemp

Congress set off a farming frenzy when it legalized hemp nationwide in last year’s farm bill. The rush to plant fields of industrial hemp swept into the Rogue Valley, eclipsing the number of acres devoted to pears and wine grapes combined. Whether everyone involved will still be in business next year remains to be seen, but those who are need more guidance from the federal government than they’ve gotten so far.

The industry and state regulators in the Oregon Department of Agriculture are waiting for federal officials to finish drafting regulations that will affect the 2020 planting season. States will submit plans to the U.S. Department of Agriculture detailing where hemp is being grown and how it will be tested to make sure it does not exceed minimal levels of THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis that makes users high.

At this point, the money is in cannabidiol, or CBD, the compound that has shown beneficial effects as a remedy for pain and other ailments. More research is essential.

The Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for regulating the sale and marketing of supplements and foods containing CBD, said in a recent letter to Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden that the agency would need three to five years to accomplish that. That’s unacceptable, given the fact that hemp is now being grown in Oregon and in other states.

The hemp industry holds tremendous potential for Oregon, and Southern Oregon in particular. Federal officials should be encouraging this new industry, not dragging their feet.