Editor’s note: Today’s editorials originally appeared in The Medford (Ore.) Mail Tribune and the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. Editorial content from other publications and authors is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.
Congress set off a farming frenzy when it legalized hemp nationwide in last year’s farm bill. The rush to plant fields of industrial hemp swept into the Rogue Valley, eclipsing the number of acres devoted to pears and wine grapes combined. Whether everyone involved will still be in business next year remains to be seen, but those who are need more guidance from the federal government than they’ve gotten so far.
Local growers are divided over how low prices might go this fall, but most agree the trend is downward. The industry and state regulators in the Oregon Department of Agriculture are waiting for federal officials to finish drafting regulations, expected this fall, that will affect the 2020 planting season. States will submit plans to the U.S. Department of Agriculture detailing where hemp is being grown and how it will be tested to make sure it does not exceed minimal levels of THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis that makes users high.
At this point, the money is in the extraction of cannabidiol, or CBD, the compound that has shown beneficial health effects as a remedy for pain and other ailments. On the horizon is cannabigerol, or CBG, which some research has suggested may have medicinal properties that could benefit patients with Huntington’s disease and cancer, and THCA — tetrahyhydrocannabinolic acid — a molecular relative of THC that proponents say is effective against pain without causing intoxication.
Oregon State University has launched the Global Hemp Innovation Center, the largest hemp lab in the country. Researchers are eligible under the 2018 farm bill to compete for federal grants through the USDA.
More research is essential. Meanwhile, the federal government must move quickly to help stabilize the industry by issuing guidelines for the sale, distribution and use of CBD.
The Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for regulating the sale and marketing of supplements and foods containing CBD, said in a recent letter to Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden that the agency would need three to five years to accomplish that. That’s unacceptable, given the fact that hemp is now being grown in Oregon and in other states.
The hemp industry holds tremendous potential for Oregon, and Southern Oregon in particular. Federal officials should be encouraging this new industry, not dragging their feet.
Legislature’s legal challenge to governor’s power welcome
The Legislature and the Governor’s Office, although both are now controlled by Democrats, are two separate branches of government.
Having each branch of government — including the third branch, the judiciary — stay in their constitutionally mandated lane is critical for good government.
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Given that, we applaud the action taken last week by the Legislature to sue Gov. Jay Inslee for overstepping his authority with a series of one-sentence vetoes in the state transportation budget.
Lawmakers are hinging their lawsuit on a constitutional ban on vetoes less than a full section of approved legislation.
“By vetoing individual sentences, we believe the governor has exceeded the constitutional power afforded to the executive branch,” Senate Democratic Majority Leader Andy Billig of Spokane said in a written statement. “The checks and balances woven throughout our constitution are essential to a healthy democracy. This lawsuit is one of those checks.”
While we believe the lawsuit was the correct course of action, and courageous as it is not easy to challenge the authority of a governor in the same party, it is far from certain that the Legislature will prevail.
Inslee contends he needed to veto specific sentences because he felt the language was an attempt to indirectly amend an existing statute.
“While my veto authority is generally limited to subsections or appropriation items in an appropriation bill, in this very rare and unusual circumstance I have no choice but to veto a single sentence in several subsections to prevent a constitutional violation and to prevent a forced violation of state law,” Inslee wrote in his May veto message.
This disagreement between the governor and the Legislature seems to be an honest one. It can’t — nor should it — be settled by making political deals. Since the governor took this single-sentence route to veto part of a piece of legislation, and thus establish a precedent, its constitutionally must be clearly decided.
“This is a respectful difference of opinion, and we look forward to forthcoming guidance from our courts,” Inslee said.
So, too, do we.
Members of the House and Senate — the Democratic majority and Republican minority — served the public well in seeking a clear and decisive answer to this matter.