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South Oregon deer get the munchies, destroy farmer’s hemp crops

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Orhempco, of Murphy, Oregon—a company that intends to be Oregon’s largest industrial hemp producer—was shocked to find out that nearly 1,000 of their industrial hemp plants were destroyed after a group of hungry deer decided the crop would make an excellent late-night snack.

Cliff Thomason, real estate agent and steward of Orhempco, told the Grants Pass Daily Courier,“Generally, I don’t think they like cannabis. They liked ours, though.” The deer left only 40 of the 1,000 plants behind.

Industrial hemp is low in THC—the psychoactive element of marijuana—but as Kit Doyle, a partner in Orhempco, noted, the plants are high in protein and could be reason why the deer binged on the crop. Industrial hemp is used to make a wide range of products and is a growing industry in Oregon.

Orhempco’s crop was only partially protected by tall fencing (a measure put in place to keep the plants safe from hungry deer) as the project’s certainty is unclear because of changing laws in Oregon around the growth and sale of hemp products. Currently, companies can import hemp grown elsewhere, but American farmers cannot grow it themselves. Governor Ted Kulongoski signed SB 676 into law in August, allowing farmers to start growing the crop, but the law still must be taken in front of US Congress. Recreational marijuana use for those ages 21 and over has also recently been legalized in Oregon.

Orhempco has planted multiple crops of industrial hemp, each at different stages of growth, so Doyle has faith that the company will be able to harvest future crops, legislation allowing.

Doyle told the Grants Pass Daily Courier that the company  “…wanted to hurry and get in the ground and we didn’t want to spend a lot of money,” and that “Next year, if we decide to grow in the same place, we will have the necessary infrastructure.”