Hundreds of Oregon hemp producers found growing illicit marijuana

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

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

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 is screening growers along with the Oregon Department of Agriculture, starting with operations in southern Oregon.

“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 name 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 not criminal penalties.

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