Industrial hemp conjures images of rope, seeds for your morning smoothie and the quirky Dr. Bronner’s soap, but farmers have discovered an unexpected and potentially lucrative use for the crop: Oil billed as treatment for everything from cancer to autism.
The oil offers a much higher return on investment than converting hemp into more conventional products, growers say.
But while advocates see unlimited potential in industrial hemp, serious challenges remain for the sometimes maligned and often misunderstood plant whose fate is complicated by the national politics of marijuana, its intoxicating cousin.
“The confusion around it has been frustrating,” said Eric Steenstra, executive director of the Hemp Industries Association, a national group that advocates for the legalization of the crop. “Hemp and other varieties of cannabis have been tied together since day one in terms of policy.”
Still, in Oregon — one of about a dozen states with active industrial hemp programs — the industry is