When Trey Willison — a hemp farmer in Eugene, Oregon — first told his corn-farming father about the profits he was making on his hemp farm, his father didn’t believe him. Willison’s father only makes $600 an acre on his corn farm, so he thought Willison’s hemp math must be wrong.
“The hardest part in convincing other farmers to get into hemp is getting them to believe how much money they can make from it,” says Willison, who now owns a hemp and cannabis breeding company called Eugenius.
Willison exclusively bred cannabis for 15 years. But recently, he switched his focus to hemp and breeding for “the minor cannabinoids like CBD, CBG, CBDv, and THCv.” Willison says his transition was inspired by the shocking price drops in the cannabis market.
“The price of marijuana has tanked in Oregon,” he says. “I never thought it would get so low.”
A pound of quality cannabis in Oregon now sells for about $500 a pound, when just last summer, that same pound was selling for $1,500.
Unlike what Willison’s father thinks, the math is simple — and it’s impacting cannabis farmers across Oregon: A pound of quality cannabis in Oregon now sells for about $500 a pound, when just last summer, that same pound was selling for $1,500.
The result is also simple: A significant number of Oregon’s cannabis farmers are switching to hemp alongside Willison. Farmers interested in producing CBD are sticking with hemp and forgoing the cannabis game altogether. Earlier this year, the Associated Press reported that applications to cultivate hemp in Oregon “have increased more than twentyfold since 2015, making Oregon no. 2 behind Colorado.”
Oregon’s cannabis regulations have both precipitated and encouraged this trend. Cannabis licenses from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) are more expensive than hemp licenses from the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA). The cheapest cannabis license is $1,250 (including the application fee) and can get as expensive as $6,000, compared to the hemp certification, which is just $1,300. The hemp license also allows unlimited acreage, whereas the largest cannabis grow license limits farmers to less than an acre.
Consequently, farmers “can make more than $100,000 an acre growing hemp” thanks to the high demand and low supply of quality CBD-rich medicine on the market, according to the Associated Press.
HEMP spoke to five Oregon hemp farmers, including Willison, to better understand the cannabis exodus and hemp resurgence. Four of these farmers are now fully in the hemp market, and one still has a cannabis farm. While all five of the farmers recognize the fiscal benefits of choosing hemp over cannabis, they all say they were motivated to start farming hemp for more personal reasons.
Their collective experiences provide an eye-opening look at things to come for states just starting to legalize marijuana and hemp, as regulators and farmers are forced to grapple with these newly-legal economies.
Switching from Cannabis to Hemp
Cannabis has always been a part of Matt Brown’s life. He’s been cultivating it for the past 13 years, both in California and Oregon. He never anticipated he would become a hemp farmer and admits he “used to have the same stigma as everyone else about hemp, that it was a bunch of males grown on top of each other for textiles.”
After moving to Southern Oregon, he learned that “there was more to the hemp industry than t-shirts and hats.
When Brown’s father was diagnosed with throat cancer and given just 90 days to live, he immediately began chemotherapy, using cannabis tinctures, and a low dose of Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), both very high in CBD. Brown says thanks to in part to CBD, his father is still alive today.
While Brown’s interest in CBD was piqued by his father’s experience, he says his decision to become a hemp farmer was ultimately because of his daughter. “She can walk through my hemp fields, but that could never happen with cannabis because there is such a stigma around it,” he says.
Brown transitioned his adult-use cannabis business, Fire Ridge Farms, into the Fire Ridge Hemp Co, and now has two farms, totaling nearly 160 acres, and a breeding facility.
Brown’s story is similar to many other hemp farmers in Oregon, including David Tracy, who is now the owner of a small-scale organic hemp farm named Dreamland.
When Tracy first began growing cannabis, he never dreamed he would end up growing hemp. Born in Massachusetts, he wanted to start a cannabis business there, but “it was way too expensive,” so he went out west to Oregon.
“While it legally is hemp, what we are breeding is effectively cannabis.” – David Tracy, Dreamland Organics
He originally intended to open a dispensary, but that changed when he got to Oregon. Tracy met a landowner interested in starting a hemp farm and another partner who already had a dispensary, which was the impetus for him starting Dreamland Organics.
Credits : https://thehempmag.com