Oregon is famous for being one of the most hemp-friendly states. All of the nation’s preeminent hemp cannabinoid companies have emerged out of Oregon, and the consumer market within the state is very open to cannabis of all kinds.
Is it still worth staking a claim in the competitive Oregon hemp market, however, or is the bar to entry too high for an average entrepreneur? Learn if Oregon is a state where it makes sense to grow, process, or retail hemp over the course of this comprehensive guide.
Oregon cannabinoid law overview
- The only restriction Oregon has emplaced on hemp commerce is a requirement that sales only be made to individuals 21 years of age or older (PDF fact sheet)
- Oregon was one of the first states to create an adult-use cannabis program
- As a result, marketing cannabinoid products in the state is unlikely to be problematic in any way
- It is important to make sure state officials do not confuse your products with adult-use or medical cannabis products, however
- Great caution must, therefore, be taken to limit the THC concentration in cannabinoid products sold in Oregon to 0.3% or lower
Can I sell CBD in Oregon?
Yes, you can sell CBD products in Oregon, and the state generally provides a conducive environment for such business activities. The federal 0.3% THC restriction applies, of course, but aside from that, Oregon simply asks that you don’t sell CBD to minors.
Both culturally and geographically, Oregon has historically been adjacent to neighboring California, so its acceptance of CBD can be chalked up to a shared sympathy for the cannabis plant. As long as you adhere to the established legal parameters, Oregon regulators are likely to have minimal interference with your hemp business operations.
Is it legal to grow hemp in Oregon?
Yes, growing hemp is legal in Oregon, and the practice is even encouraged by the state government², which describes hemp cultivation as “another opportunity for Oregon agriculture to grow.” In comparison to other states, Oregon provides a great deal of education to prospective hemp growers, and the application process is very clear. However, the fees associated with growing hemp in Oregon are relatively high.
Do you need a license to grow hemp in Oregon?
Yes, individuals involved in growing, processing, or breeding hemp in Oregon must be properly licensed to avoid facing considerable fines. In addition to imposing licensing requirements, the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) also has a vast library of rules and regulations³ that any prospective hemp operator in the state should peruse carefully.
Simplifying the process considerably from the norm, Oregon has condensed its hemp licensing framework into just two main types of licenses, a Hemp Grower License and a Hemp Handler License, alongside a little-used Hemp Seed License. We’ll provide details on all three types of licensing below:
Oregon Hemp Grower License
Oregon defines hemp growers as businesses that grow, harvest, and dry hemp. Regardless of when you acquired your license, all Oregon hemp grower permits expire on December 31st of the year in which they were issued. Additionally, initial licensing and renewals must take place before May 31st of the year in which you intend to grow hemp.
Acquiring a hemp grower license in Oregon is usually simple and follows this general flow:
– Determine if the county in which you intend to grow hemp has imposed a moratorium on hemp cultivation
– As of 2023, the only counties to do so are Douglas and Jackson
– Download an Oregon Hemp Grower License Application (PDF)
– Submit the completed form along with a $350 hemp grower license fee and an $875 hemp grow site license
– A key participant fee of $75 is also required for each individuals in your company involved in growing hemp
– All these fees recur when you register again next year
Oregon Hemp Handler License
In Oregon, a hemp handler is any “business that processes cannabinoids from hemp.” This means that if your business is involved in removing and concentrating the cannabinoids present in hemp in any way, you need to acquire a Hemp Handler License. These rules apply to both hemp-related businesses and also individuals involved in refining cannabis products who are not affiliated with an Oregon-registered LLC.
As with the state’s licenses for hemp growers, Hemp Handler Licenses also expire on December 31st. There is no mandatory date each year by which hemp handlers must be licensed, but you must acquire a valid license number before handling hemp. Here’s how the process of acquiring an Oregon Hemp Handler license works:
– If your business is involved in the processing of hemp products in any way, you need a Hemp Handler License
– There are no county-based restrictions for this type of hemp licensing
– Simply download an Oregon Hemp Handler Application (PDF) and submit it, allowing enough time for approval before you begin handling hemp
– Hemp handler licensing costs $2,275 in Oregon and is accompanied by a “Hemp Handler Reciprocity License” that costs $875
– These fees recur the next time you register
Oregon Hemp Seed License
Hemp seed licensing is only required of individuals involved in the production or sale of hemp seeds, a type of activity that only larger hemp companies usually engage in. If you intend to produce hemp seeds for commercial purposes in Oregon, you will need all three types of licensing: a Hemp Grower License, a Hemp Handler License, and an Oregon Hemp Seed License (PDF). Hemp seed licenses in Oregon cost $875 per year.
Does Oregon have a good climate for hemp cultivation?
The climate in Oregon is absolutely ideal for hemp cultivation. Even compared to California, Oregon is more lush and verdant in its central region, filled with rolling mountains and hills in which other plants do not thrive but cannabis does.
Nonetheless, Oregon does have a distinct hemp growing season, a fact reflected in the state’s hemp licenses, which all expire at the end of each year. So, those hoping to grow hemp in Oregon nonstop throughout the year may be disappointed, but companies that respect the region’s unique ecosystem will find that the cannabis they grow thrives beyond their greatest expectations.
How to start a hemp business in Oregon
Culturally, Oregon is very permissive of cannabinoids. From a regulatory perspective, however, Oregon has erected intimidating barriers to entry that may either disincentivize hemp companies from starting up in the state or even cause established operators to meet with serious obstacles.
For instance, the seasonal nature of hemp licenses in Oregon combined with an unusually high fee scale penalizes both growers and handlers for submitting applications late, but any applications judged incomplete may be rejected at any time. On top of that, the rules Oregon imposes on its hemp professionals are unusually strict, potentially causing growers and handlers to become insolvent over repeated offenses.
Benefits of private labeling
For all these reasons and more, it may make more sense to work with an established hemp operator in Oregon rather than tackling the market on your own. All the best hemp growers and processors in the world are already gathered in Oregon, for one thing, providing both stiff competition and plenty of excellent products already there to choose from.
Consumers in Oregon value CBD and other hemp cannabinoids, so it certainly makes sense to market your products extensively in this state. It may be beneficial to familiarize yourself with the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s guidelines to ensure your fledgling business operates smoothly and without unnecessary complications.
The bottom line: Is starting a hemp business in Oregon a good idea?
If you intend to start from the ground up with the hopes of catching a wave of overall interest in cannabis, now may not be the most lucrative time to start a hemp business in Oregon. The Oregon cannabis economy, in general, is currently in free-fall⁴, and in combination with regulatory systems that have not become any more lenient over time, conditions are combining to make doing business difficult for hemp start-ups.
Oregonians, on the other hand, have not relaxed in their love and appreciation for cannabis. The current cannabis economy challenges in Oregon are not due to a lack of demand from consumers but oversupply by producers.
The solution in any oversupplied market is to make products that are better than the competition. Consumers will not be wowed by products they’ve already seen offered at the same prices. No matter how long they’ve loved cannabis, Oregonians won’t be able to help but notice if your hemp products are both less expensive and higher quality than competing products.
For now, the path of least resistance between the goals of hemp entrepreneurs and the needs of Oregon hemp consumers runs through those companies that can already be counted on to deliver excellent supplies of white-label products. Find the right backer to provide the top-tier products you need to win audiences and enter the already fertile Oregon hemp market with confidence.
Oregon Hemp Business FAQ
Make sure you’ve learned everything you need to know about starting a hemp business in Oregon:
Do you need a license to grow hemp in Oregon?
Yes, proper licensing is required for all businesses that seek to either grow, process, or produce seeds from hemp in the state or Oregon. Licensing costs in Oregon are quite high compared to other states, and all licenses only last a maximum of one year.
How much does it cost to get a hemp license in Oregon?
Acquiring an annual hemp license in Oregon can cost anywhere from $1,225 to $5,250 or even more depending on the number of “key participants” in your operation. The multiplicity of hemp licenses in Oregon combined with their yearly nature makes the state relatively unfriendly to startups and new businesses.
How many acres of hemp are grown in Oregon?
According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service⁵, 2,100 acres of hemp were planted in Oregon in 2022. This number remains unchanged from 2021’s reported acreage.
1. Sadiq, S. (2023, June 19). Portland State University researchers study the impact of Oregon’s drug decriminalization measure. Opb. https://www.opb.org/article/2023/06/19/psu-research-oregon-measure-110-drug-decriminalization/
2. State of Oregon: Hemp – About hemp. (n.d.). https://www.oregon.gov/oda/programs/hemp/pages/abouthemp.aspx
3. State of Oregon: Hemp – Hemp Laws and rules. (n.d.). https://www.oregon.gov/oda/programs/Hemp/Pages/HempLawsRules.aspx
4. Rogoway, M. (2023, July 17). Oregon’s cannabis economy is a wreck: ‘Everybody would say it’s in a crisis.’ The Seattle Times. https://www.seattletimes.com/business/oregons-cannabis-economy-is-a-wreck-everybody-would-say-its-in-a-crisis/?utm_source=flipboard&utm_content=other
5. PRESS RELEASE NATIONAL AGRICULTURAL STATISTICS SERVICE. (n.d.). NASS. https://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Idaho/Publications/Crops_Press_Releases/2023/HEMP.pdf