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Oregon marijuana farmers turn to growing hemp to fight oversupply

By Karen Graham     May 21, 2018 in Business
The glut of marijuana in Oregon is driving pot prices to rock-bottom levels, prompting some growers to start looking at another cannabis plant, hemp, to make ends meet.
It doesn't take long before American ingenuity kicks in when a problem arises, and that is what's happening in Oregon. Last month Digital Journal noted that the price of sun-grown marijuana in the state had plummeted from $1,500 a pound last summer to as low as $700 by mid-October.
The number of licenses to grow marijuana jumped to nearly 1,000 by the end of 2017, and according to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), which is mandated with issuing the licenses, they had another 910 awaiting OLCC approval in April this year.
HOMEGROWN: Oregon decriminalization advocate Paul Stanford stands in the marijuana garden maintained...
HOMEGROWN: Oregon decriminalization advocate Paul Stanford stands in the marijuana garden maintained by his organization, The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation, in Portland in 2013.
Paul Stanford / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)
There has been a definite increase in the number of growers who have switched from growing marijuana to growing its family member, hemp, according to ABC News.
Applications for licenses to grow hemp in Oregon have increased 25-fold since 2015, making the state number two behind Colorado among the 34 states that allow active hemp cultivation. The changing market comes as demand for the active ingredient in hemp becomes more popular.
Difference between marijuana and hemp
That active ingredient is a hemp-derived extract is called cannabidiol or CBD. While marijuana comes from the dried leaves and flowers of the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant, hemp also is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant species that is grown specifically for its fiber.
Close up to hemp seeds which were not seperated from the hemp plant.
Close up to hemp seeds which were not seperated from the hemp plant.
D-Kuru (CC BY-SA 3.0 AT)
The big difference between marijuana and hemp is the amount of the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the two plants. C. sativa and C. indica contain levels of THC ranging from 10 to 27 percent.
Hemp, on the other hand, has only 0.3 percent or less of THC but has much higher levels of CBD, which actually decreases or eliminates its psychoactive effects.
Growing hemp for its cannabidiol or CBD is a lucrative business. CBD oil can sell for thousands of dollars per kilogram, and farmers can make more than $100,000 an acre growing hemp plants to produce it. The CBD distillate can also be converted into a crystalline or powdered form.
"Word on the street is everybody thinks hemp's the new gold rush," Jerrad McCord said, who grows marijuana in southern Oregon and just added 12 acres (5 hectares) of hemp. "This is a business. You've got to adapt, and you've got to be a problem-solver."
Oregon's stockpile of pot is enormous
When Oregon is talking about a surplus of marijuana, they aren't kidding - How about nearly 1.0 million pounds (450,000 kilograms)? This is the amount of usable flower in the system and does not include an additional 350,000 pounds (159,000 kilograms) of marijuana extracts, edibles, and tinctures.
With such a huge surplus, it's no wonder that the price of one gram of marijuana has dropped from $15 to $7. "Now we're starting to look at drastic means, like destroying product. At some point, there's no more storage for it," Trey Willison said, who switched his operation from marijuana to hemp this season. "Whoever would have thought we'd get to the point of destroying pounds of marijuana?"
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