CORVALLIS, Ore. -- This year's hemp harvest could be the largest in state history, experts at Oregon State University say.
According to Global Hemp Innovation Center director Jay Noller, the decriminalization of hemp farming has attracted more growers than ever to the industry.
The state said farmers were licensed to grow more than 46,000 acres of hemp in 2019, compared to about 8,000 in 2018.
"Even in the olden days, when we used to grow hemp in Oregon, I don't think we saw this many acres," said Noller.
Experts said that a wet September and October has created problems for the crop, washing away desirable compounds and inviting disease and mold. However, cooler temperatures have controlled levels of the psychoactive compound THC. According to federal law, hemp can only contain 0.03% of THC.
While farmers flock to the crop, Noller said producers are getting better at complying with regulations across the board. The Farming Bill of 2018 put the regulation of hemp by the U.S. Department of Agriculture into motion, but Noller predicted that it may not be a fully legal commercial crop until the 2020 growing season.
"It has an unpredictable sort of chaotic nature to it. In that chaos, there's opportunity, but there's also potential for losses," he said.
Increased supply might also give major retailers the confidence they need to get hemp products into their catalogs, Noller said.
As for popular hemp extract CBD, experts said the Food and Drug Administration could be years away from regulation, creating an unpredictable environment for retailers and investors.
Julie McKenzie is a co-owner of Your CBD Shop in Corvallis, which has been open for about a month. She said that she chose to open her shop as consumers are gaining confidence in hemp products.
"As the industry grows, there's more room for profit and more room for families to support themselves and get the message out there to people," she said.
Noller said the industry is poised for more growth in the 2020 growing season and that Oregon has gotten recognized as having the best conditions for hemp farming.