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Bill To Crack Down On Illegal Marijuana And Unregulated Hemp Could Soon Be Law

Erik Neumann
Cannabis being grown indoors.

A new bill on its way to the Governor’s desk would increase testing and law enforcement for the explosion of cannabis farming in Southern Oregon.

HB 3000 would affect many parts of the cannabis industry but one of the main impacts would be increased testing of whether hemp farms are actually growing marijuana.

The sheriffs in both Josephine and Jackson counties have testified that there’s a large amount of illicit marijuana being grown in Southern Oregon under the guise of hemp.

“I anticipate there is going to be greater testing of plants in the ground through the state agencies immediately,” says Representative Lily Morgan, R-Grants Pass, who sponsored the bill.

Records provided by the Oregon Department of Agriculture show that in 2021 only 5% of registered hemp farms in the state had a pre-harvest compliance test down on their crop, which indicates the level of THC in cannabis and would show if a hemp crop is actually marijuana.

The state agricultural agency has blamed the low testing numbers on limited staff. The sheriffs say, since the two plants look identical, officials often lack probable cause to enter a farm and have testing done.

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Josephine County
A video from Josephine County shows large growth of greenhouses in Southern Oregon, rumored to be filled with illicit cannabis.

The new bill would increase staff at ODA and allow them to get assistance from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, law enforcement and even the national guard.

“So, ODA is going to be expected to step up or be held accountable,” Morgan says.

The bill would also give law enforcement maps of registered hemp grows, so they can find out whether a farm is unlicensed all-together.

In addition to the focus on enforcement, the bill would set regulations for an artificial compound derived from hemp called “delta-8”. Delta-8 can currently be purchased in hemp products by minors, even though it’s an intoxicating substance.

HB 3000 passed with broad support in the final days of the state’s legislative session. Morgan says she expects it to be signed into law.

Erik Neumann is JPR's news director. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.