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Half-way hemp law

When Congress does something half-way, it can cause more problems than it solves. That’s certainly true of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp nationwide as an agricultural crop.

What Congress didn’t do was make sure farmers growing hemp could ship it to buyers across the country without fear that over-zealous police officers would seize it in the mistaken belief that it was recreational marijuana, which remains illegal under federal law despite legalization in 11 states. At best, such seizures delay shipments while the product is tested; at worst, the hemp may be damaged or destroyed if sealed packages are opened, or if hemp is held in hot warehouses for weeks at a time.

Southern Oregon has a major stake in how the hemp industry develops from now on. Jackson County is the leading producer in the state, with 8,500 acres planted this season. Buyers far and wide want it. The problem is getting it there.

Two truck drivers still face prison time for hauling what turned out to be perfectly legal hemp across Idaho. In another case, Idaho authorities held 69 pounds of Oregon hemp for six weeks before releasing it when test results confirmed it was legal.

Eventually, as more states join the trend toward legalizing recreational marijuana, Congress may come to its senses and legalize it nationwide. Until then, Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture should establish a nationwide certification system so shippers can present official paperwork that confirms they are hauling a legal crop, not illegal drugs.