Oregon hemp producers discovered growing marijuana illegally

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(A version of this story first appeared at Hemp Industry Daily.)

More than 100 licensed hemp producers in southern Oregon have been found to be growing marijuana illegally, according to a top cannabis regulator.

Members of the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC), which regulates adult-use marijuana in that state, learned recently that 54% of roughly 212 registered hemp grows in Jackson and Josephine counties were found to be growing marijuana in recent checks, Jefferson Public Radio reported.

Oregon hemp farms are under increased scrutiny after passage of a new law that aims to crack down on unlicensed marijuana production among Oregon’s hemp operators.

The OLCC and the state’s agriculture department are screening growers, starting with operations in southern Oregon, in a joint operation.

“I believe from my experience down there, there are more illegal grows than there are registered grows,” said Richard Evans, the OLCC’s senior director of licensing and compliance.

It wasn’t immediately clear how hot the noncompliant hemp was in the recent checks. The agency did not identify any of the suspected illicit growers.

The new Oregon law sets a 10% THC threshold before licensed hemp growers face penalties for growing marijuana. The law calls for fines up to $10,000 but no criminal penalties.

Federal law protects licensed hemp growers from criminal negligence prosecution if their plants exceed 0.3% THC but not more than 1%.