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From pot to hemp: Oregon growers hope to cash in on promises of CBD oil

A flood of legal marijuana growers has pushed down prices and prompted growers to find alternatives to such as hemp cultivation. (Natalie Behring/Getty Images)

Marijuana prices have plummeted in Oregon, while applications to grow hemp have skyrocketed since 2015, as the state's cannabis market tries to adapt to the growing demands for cannabidiol, or CBD.

Less than three years ago, Oregon legalized recreational marijuana, but all of the product produced must remain in the state, and it didn't cap the number of growers allowed.

Those factors have driven down the drug's price since the state's supply has surpassed its demand. The state has nearly 1 million pounds of usable pot in the system, and another 350,000 pounds of extracts, edibles, and tinctures, according to The Associated Press.

All the while, there's a growing popularity for CBD oil has cultivators switching from marijuana to hemp in the chase for market share.

Proponents of CBD oil claim it has medicinal properties that treat many ailments including pain, addiction, seizures, anxiety, and nausea.

Farmers can earn more than $100,000 per acre growing hemp and CBD oil, in its purest distilled form can garner thousands of dollars per kilogram.

Marijuana grower Jerrad McCord, whose farm is in southern Oregon, has added 12 acres of hemp to his crops.

“Word on the street is everybody thinks hemp’s the new gold rush,” McCord said. “This is a business. You’ve got to adapt, and you’ve got to be a problem-solver.”

Retail prices for marijuana have plunged from $14 to $7 per gram since 2015, according to a February report by the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis.

“Now we’re starting to look at drastic means, like destroying product. At some point, there’s no more storage for it,” Willison said. “Whoever would have thought we’d get to the point of destroying pounds of marijuana?”

What's the difference between hemp and marijuana?

Both hemp and marijuana are cannabis plants, but hemp contains less than .3 percent THC, the chemical in marijuana that produces a high.

The hemp plant is legal to grow, according to federal law, and it can be sold to use for fabric, food, and building materials.

CBD oil doesn't contain THC.

What else?

In 2015, there were 12 licensed hemp growers in Oregon. That number has reportedly grown to 353, as of last week.

Colorado is the only state that ranks ahead of Oregon for hemp cultivation among the 19 states that allow its production.

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