SALEM — Hemp growers in the state will now need to abide by several new federal regulations that will be overseen by the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

The changes come at a time of growing concerns over illegal marijuana operations in parts of Southern Oregon. Both hemp and marijuana are cannabis plants, similar in appearance and smell but distinguished by differences in their levels of the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol compound.

The new regulations require that Oregon growers now must provide for each key person listed on a grower application a criminal history report and report yearly to the state Agriculture Department the number of acres they planted and pounds harvested. Those figures then get reported to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The new rules also require growers to collect and submit plant samples to the state agency for testing within 30 days of harvesting and require growers to register with the federal Farm Service Agency. That agency is in charge of agriculture policies, farm loan programs and conservation, commodity and disaster relief programs.

Oregonians have been allowed to grow recreational marijuana with a license since 2016 and industrial hemp with a license since 2015, but because the two cannabis plants are so similar in appearance and smell, it is difficult to enforce laws penalizing growers who illegally use hemp licenses to grow marijuana.

Hemp is regulated by the state Agriculture Department while marijuana is regulated by the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission.

Rules around hemp production in Oregon have been around since 2009. The 2018 federal Farm Bill, which made the crop legal to grow nationwide, added greater regulations, as well as the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program, run by the federal Agriculture Department.

To further combat illegal marijuana operations, state lawmakers last year passed House Bill 3000, allowing the state Agriculture Department and the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission to set stricter standards for the production and sale of cannabis products, and to better regulate the amount of THC in cannabis plants. That law also went into effect on Jan. 1.

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