Growing cannabis with the end goal of selling CBD products may sound like an obvious thought process to many. But for some cannabis growers in Oregon who got into the industry to sell the final product as medical and recreational cannabis, the idea to turn to hemp-derived CBD production is a new one — one that came as a surprise to many.
Stiff competition for cannabis growers in the state has made some rethink their business strategy; a surplus of cannabis in Oregon is pushing prices lower and lower, with some growers already making moves to begin hemp production. Since 2015, Oregon has seen a twentyfold increase in applications to grow hemp, placing it just behind Colorado, the country’s leading hemp production sate, among the other 18 states that currently offer hemp production.
‘The New Gold Rush’
Oregon legalized recreational cannabis in 2014, and it has had a major impact on its economy. Not only has cannabis legalization provided $85 million for schools, public health matters, local governments, and police, but it has created over 123,000 jobs in the state. A sizable portion of these jobs are in cannabis production. But with the price of legal cannabis dropping, growers are seeing CBD (and its growing popularity) as reasons to apply to grow hemp.
A grower in Oregon who recently added 12 acres to grow hemp noted that, “This is a business. You’ve got to adapt, and you’ve got be a problem solver.” In solving this problem, Oregon is likely to see a steady rise in hemp production applications. “. . . everybody thinks hemp’s the new gold rush,” Jerrad McCord told The Olympian. And he’s not alone in his thinking.
With the cost of production outweighing the prospects of profit for many cannabis growers, some are turning to once unthought of means: destroying the crop. The Oregon Office of Economic Analysis reported that prices have plummeted by 50% since 2015, with the cost of a gram of cannabis falling from $14 to $7—another convincing factor for many growers to begin dedicating land to hemp production.
Making the switch from growing cannabis to growing hemp is a natural progression for many growers. Eric Steenstra, president of the nonpartisan organization Vote Hemp, said, “There are a lot of growers who already have experience growing cannabis, and when you’re growing for CBD, there are a lot of the same techniques that you use for growing marijuana. Oregon is definitely a hotbed of activity around this.”
‘An International Commodity’
While the United States is slowly legalizing medical and recreational cannabis on a state-by-state basis, growers in Oregon (and every other state that has legalized cannabis) must keep their product inside the state. Trey Willison, a cannabis grower who made the switch from growing cannabis to growing hemp this season, said, “The (marijuana) market is stuck within the borders of Oregon — it’s locked within the state. But hemp is an international commodity now.” Though the switch to hemp production is not without its challenges, Willison and many other growers see hemp production as way to not only generate more income, but to expand their enterprise well beyond Oregon’s borders.