A glut of legal marijuana has driven Oregon pot prices to rock-bottom levels, prompting some nervous growers to start pivoting to another type of cannabis to make ends meet—one that doesn't come with a high. Applications for state licenses to grow hemp—marijuana's non-intoxicating cousin—have increased more than twentyfold since 2015, and Oregon now ranks No. 2 behind Colorado among the 19 states with active hemp cultivation, the AP reports. The rapidly evolving market comes amid skyrocketing demand for a hemp-derived extract called cannabidiol, or CBD, seen by many as a health aid.
In its purified distilled form, CBD oil commands thousands of dollars per kilogram, and farmers can make more than $100,000 an acre growing hemp plants to produce it. That distillate can also be converted into a crystallized form or powder. "Word on the street is everybody thinks hemp's the new gold rush," said Jerrad McCord, who grows marijuana in southern Oregon and just added 12 acres of hemp. "This is a business. You've got to adapt, and you've got to be a problem-solver." Oregon's inventory of marijuana is staggering for a state its size—almost 1 million pounds of usable flower, plus 350,000 pounds of marijuana extracts, edibles, and tinctures. Under state law, none of it can leave Oregon. (This is why the federal government spells marijuana as "marihuana.")