Controversial hemp bill amended, mixed emotions from farmers and law enforcement

SALEM, Ore. — A new hemp bill, introduced by Ashland State Senator Jeff Golden was discussed and amended Thursday afternoon in a Senate committee. Senator Golden said hemp is often being used as a cover for illegal THC operations, which is why he is trying to flatten the curve and reduce the number of illegal marijuana plants in the community.

Thursday afternoon, Senator Jeff Golden presented what he called “an important amendment” to Senate Bill 1564. “I think [the amendment] relieves a lot of the concern and could really reduce the opposition,” he said. Originally, the bill would impose a statewide moratorium for new hemp licenses.

“This bill would now allow county governments board of commissioners to declare a state of emergency and tell the Department of Agriculture not to issue new hemp licenses in their county,” said Golden. The state senator says he believes Jackson and Josephine Counties would jump on the opportunity.

But not everyone is on board.

“As a farmer looking to follow the law, I’m asking you that you please don’t make it illegal to be legal,” said Jackson County hemp farmer Taylor Carmen. Many opponents suggested instead to  increase funding for law enforcement and adding compliance inspectors. “The criminal element will not stop operating because they can’t get a license,” said Carmen.

Alicia Brown, a division manager with Jackson County Code Enforcement said after what she’s seen this year, she supports the bill. “At these properties that were being investigated, we were being provided with incorrect, incomplete or inaccurate ODA registration information, said Brown. “It became very clear the ODA program was being exploited to produce illicit cannabis. Not only does this have a huge impact on our growing region here in the Rogue Valley, it’s a huge impact and a strain on our resources.”

On the other hand, many of the legal hemp farmers who made public comment said they encourage inspectors to come see their farms but despite the amendment, don’t support Golden’s bill.

Madison LaBerge is the anchor of NBC5 News Weekends at 6 and 11. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Madison is originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico. She loves living in the Pacific Northwest. She can't get over "how green everything is!" When Madison is not at work, she looks for new and exciting cooking recipes and explores Southern Oregon. Feel free to send her story ideas or the address of your favorite Mexican food restaurant!
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