Central Oregon is exploding with hemp fields. My commute to work is filled with a landscape of one hemp field after another. Last season, the hemp fields in my zip code totaled less than 200 acres. Today, there are more than 2,000 acres within my county. The excitement of the new hemp industry is definitely in view. It is fantastic to watch farmland unused for decades turn into a revenue-producing industry for the county.
In 2019, hemp production leaped over adult-use cannabis production as county commissioners continue to deny land-use applications. This year, the county registered 150 industrial hemp farms, but just 19 adult-use cannabis production licenses.
And unlike the cannabis producers in the same county, hemp producers have no ordinances restricting smell or water.
Meanwhile, cannabis producers have to provide engineering plans as evidence the odor from their plants will not permeate beyond their farm. Cannabis producers also cannot utilize private wells located on their farm as a water source. For more than four years, the county has coordinated a tight grasp on cannabis production to the level unseen by most other counties in Oregon.
My farm’s indoor cannabis production area is 0.08 acres. The hemp production acreage located 750 feet from my farm is 60 acres and grown outdoors.
Despite the biased and unrealistic ordinances on cannabis farms, the state-controlled production of cannabis should be a nonissue for the county. Yet, once again the Deschutes County commissioners are trying to implement another round of stricter ordinances. The proposed restrictions would force many cannabis farms to close their doors and continue to prevent market entry. The restrictions include reducing useable land by increasing setback minimums to Bureau of Land Management land and adjacent neighboring structures, increasing site visits from county inspectors by 400% and requiring all easements to have full approval.
If the proposed restrictions were in place today, I would not be authorized to establish a cannabis farm on my designated farmland (zoned for exclusive farm use). My building would not meet the setbacks. This is a very scary reality thanks to our 2018 elections when voters elected a commissioner who has zero understanding of the limitations on the cannabis industry.
How can the commissioners ask for more restrictions on cannabis but have zero restrictions on hemp? The county has no regulations over hemp; it is controlled by the Oregon Department of Agriculture. If the commissioners pass the new amendments for cannabis production, the fight will go to the state land-use board of appeal. But the county also may just opt out of cannabis altogether, not allowing any more growth for the cannabis industry as the hemp industry continues to grow.
Our fight to produce a great product always includes the fight to operate as a legal company. It is a real struggle and one the cannabis industry will take to the state level. Work boots in the morning; tie and jacket in the afternoon. The life of a cannabis businessman.
The miracle is in the greens.