OSU Launches Hemp Research Center

Oregon State University is launching the Global Hemp Innovation Center to help build the intellectual infrastructure for the country’s fledgling hemp industry.   

The federal government only removed hemp from the controlled substances list in November 2018, and many basic aspects of its utility in the market – including standard measurement sizes and certification of different hemp varieties – have not yet been settled.  

According to OSU’s press release, the new research center is designed to be a “hub connecting faculty and researchers engaged in plant research, food innovation, pharmacy, public health, public policy, business and engineering.”  

Research from Vote Hemp, a group advocating for the utility of the plant, says that acreage devoted to growing hemp in Oregon has increased sixfold in the past year, and across the country as a whole, hemp acreage doubled from 2017 to 2018. 

One of the goals of the center is to establish a certification program for seed varieties. They hope to assure purchasers that the seeds they’re buying are both legal and legitimate hemp seeds. Instances of supposed hemp seeds growing into “hot” plants, those with THC levels too high to sell legally as hemp, continue to occur across the unregulated market. 

Another new organization, the U.S. National Review Board for Hemp Varieties, will offer growers the opportunity to claim credit for developing specific strains of hemp, starting this fall.

Along with traditional manufacturing purposes like construction materials and textiles, one highly sought-after hemp product is cannabidiol (CBD) extract oil. CBD oil, a non-psychoactive compound of the cannabis plant, has demonstrated potential medical applications as well.  

The rising popularity of CBD oil has set industry growth projections on an exponential scale – from $618 million in 2018 to $22 billion in 2022.  

Hemp growers and industry members will be meeting in Harbin, China in early July to begin discussing standards and practices. China has been growing hemp for decades, but also lacks established units of measurement and other regulations to help solidify hemp’s role as an international commodity.  

By Ian MacRonald