Hemp plants near Murphy may exceed potency limit

By Jim Moore
Grants Pass Daily Courier

Posted Aug. 25, 2015 at 4:42 PM

Unofficial samples from an Orhempco industrial hemp field near Murphy that was tested by the Oregon Department of Agriculture in June showed a THC level in excess of the legal limit of 3 percent.

THC is the primary ingredient in marijuana, hemp’s more potent cousin.

Orhempco is a local company that now has three crops of industrial hemp on about 3 acres of property about 10 miles south of Grants Pass. Each crop was planted at a different time and is in a different stage of maturity.

The land is owned by Josephine County Commissioner Cherryl Walker and her husband Martin Hill. Commissioner Simon Hare also is a partner.

Investors in Orhempco aren’t concerned about the unofficial test results. Local marijuana growers have expressed fears that hemp might cross-contaminate their crops, thus altering potency.

“That whole first test was an anomaly,” said Cliff Thomason, a local Realtor who also is a partner in the new company and who operates the farm on behalf of Orhempco. The Department of Agriculture, he said, “hasn’t had a valid test.”

This is the first year Oregon has allowed industrial hemp farms. For its tests, the Department of Agriculture is following the lead of Canada, which has allowed commercial production of industrial hemp since 1998 and uses a capillary gas-chromatograph to check for THC levels.

In a statement to the Daily Courier, the Department of Agriculture tried to play down the results — for now.

“An unofficial sample is just for informational purposes for the department and is not used for any regulatory action,” said Lindsay Benson Eng, the director of market access and certification programs. Eng said two more sample were taken earlier this month. Results are expected in about a week.

Neither Walker nor Thomason seemed concerned about the pending results.

“We work closely with the department,” Thomason said. “We don’t have any doubt (the results) will be fine.”

This is the first year Oregon has allowed industrial hemp farming in Oregon, and there does appear to be a spirit of cooperation between the state and the growers.

Pokarney said hemp is a new crop in Oregon and a new program for the state, “so we are working through these issues for the first time.”

“We’re all learning,” Thomason said.

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