In the past six to twelve months, we have seen an extraordinary increase in businesses and individuals interested in growing and processing industrial hemp. This is especially true in Oregon, where Department of Agriculture (ODA) grower and handler registrations are fast, cheap and easy to acquire. In many cases, these registrants are cultivating and processing hemp in order to create cannabidiol (CBD) based products. The products can be sold state-wide without limitation, including into the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) adult use marijuana market via hemp-endorsed OLCC processors.
Other entrepreneurs, in Oregon and elsewhere, are extracting CBD for sale interstate. This is a legally nebulous area at the federal level, although interstate sales are not prohibited under Oregon law. With CBD isolate changing hands at upwards of $4,500 per kilo, however, and given the proliferation of CBD products making their way into big box retail, many businesses and individuals feel the risk is worth taking. Perhaps for this reason, we have been getting numerous weekly inquiries as to the viability of CBD sales interstate, especially as of late.
From a state rules perspective, Oregon has taken significant steps in the past several months in building out its industrial hemp regime. We wrote about the recent OLCC rules promulgated in December, which allowed for ODA hemp registrants to sell into the OLCC market; and more recently we wrote about House Bill 4089, which tied up a number of loose ends related to the tracking of those sales. The upshot of all of this is that we now have unprecedented interplay between the OLCC and ODA markets. And as the OLCC hustles to write rules implementing HB 4089, there is a fair bit of confusion about what is actually allowed.
One question that keeps coming up is whether an OLCC processor applicant may process ODA hemp (under both ODA and OLCC rules) while waiting to receive its license from OLCC. According to our reading of the rules, recently confirmed to us by OLCC, the answer is “yes.” Much in the way that marijuana growers used to attempt to “squeeze in” a medical marijuana crop pending their OLCC inspection and licensure, ODA hemp processors can float their operations by processing industrial hemp while in line with OLCC. Note that this is allowed even for ODA processors that are not seeking a hemp endorsement in their OLCC processor applications.
Of course, ODA, local fire marshals and other state or local actors may place limitations on hemp processing operations, or may require certain approvals. And just like with medical marijuana growers converting to OLCC production, OLCC may require that all hemp and hemp-derived items be removed from the processor’s premises as a condition of passing the necessary site inspection. If you think about it, this makes sense: Under OLCC rules, a licensed marijuana processor may not have hemp on its premises except if endorsed to receive that hemp via the OLCC Cannabis Tracking System (CTS) from an ODA grower or handler. Thus, pre-existing hemp items must be removed from the OLCC applicant’s premises prior to receiving the OLCC license.
Once licensed by OLCC with a hemp endorsement, the OLCC processor may receive hemp concentrates and extracts from ODA handlers, and the OLCC processor may receive raw hemp, hemp commodities and hemp products from ODA growers. Note that any form of hemp the OLCC processor receives from an ODA registrant must 1) come with clean ODA test results; and 2) be logged in CTS. Regarding the latter requirement, this means that no sale or transfer is allowed outside of OLCC channels, or to anyone other than OLCC wholesalers and retailers.
Finally, regarding ODA hemp processors–including those businesses waiting in the OLCC application queue–that’s another story. In keeping with the analysis above, those processors can sell their hemp products to anyone under Oregon law. When it comes to interstate sales and federal law, though, that’s a whole ‘nother question.