An industrial hemp business got the go-ahead earlier this month to move forward with its plan to use a Queen Avenue warehouse for hemp seed production.
Seth Crawford of Corvallis, who co-owns Jack Hempicine LLC with his brother, Eric, leased a 10,000-square-foot warehouse late last year to produce and store the specialty seed. The warehouse, at 250 Queen Ave. SW, will house an indoor grow facility. The adjacent space, part of the same building but with the address of 226 18th Ave. SW, will be used for temporary storage.
According to city filing documents, the state-licensed business plans to process approximately 200 pounds of seed this year. Information was not immediately available on when production will begin.
The building is zoned Light Industrial. It was used by Timet/Pacific Cast ATI as an industrial metal fabrication warehouse from 1988 to 2011, then by the nonprofit group Teen Challenge from 2013 to 2017. The city has no record that either applied for land use approval.
Crawford applied in December for a change of use to accommodate industrial hemp seed production, processing and storage. The uses are classified by the city as “manufacturing and production” and “warehouse and distribution,” and both are allowed under Light Industrial zoning.
Albany’s Community Development Department gave approval on Feb. 8, on the condition the business submit a landscape plan, stripe two parking spaces and put in a covered bike parking space before it receives a certificate of occupancy. The business also must dedicate a 10-foot right-of-way along the Queen Avenue frontage.
Nine people who live in the Village Duplexes on Ferry Street just south of the property signed a petition opposing the change of use application. The petition states they’re concerned about the possibility of odors and increased crime.
A 10th neighbor, also on Ferry, also objected, citing worries about odors and cross-contamination pollination of plants and flowers.
In a written response to the city, Crawford said he knows of no reports of industrial hemp theft or crime associated with it in Oregon since production became legal in 2014.
“Our security systems, cameras, and active employee presence at the site should, if anything, deter the threat of criminal activity rather than increase it,” he wrote.
As for smells and cross-pollination, Crawford said the business procedures should eliminate the possibility of both. The business must destroy any contaminated seed, he wrote, so it relies on sealed growth chambers and places industrial air movers outside the chambers that are connected to filters meant to remove fungal, bacterial and pollen contamination.
“Any air exchanged from inside our facility with outside air will have passed through several levels of filtration,” Crawford wrote. “In short, our commitment to producing pure seed for farmers has the secondary side benefit of cleaning the surrounding air of contaminants and smells.”
Industrial hemp can be used to make a variety of products, from paper to canvas to rope. According to the Oregon Department of Agriculture, the plant is defined as cannabis that contains less than 0.3 percent THC, the chemical compound that gives marijuana its high.
ODA requires that samples of hemp plants be taken no more than 28 days prior to harvest to ensure that the THC levels are properly below the threshold, department spokesman Bruce Pokarney said.
The industrial hemp industry has exploded since Oregon began issuing permits. The first year, 2015, the state had 11 licensed growers. Currently, for the 2018 crop year, that number has grown to 182, Pokarney said.
“It’s expanding by leaps and bounds,” he said.
In an email to the Democrat-Herald, Crawford said he and his brother are happy the city affirmed the application and they’re working with the property owners to meet the development criteria.
“It is important to point out that this was not a referendum on hemp production, but an artifact of previous tenants at the site of not appropriately documenting their occupancy with the city of Albany,” Crawford wrote.
“Non-psychoactive hemp is federally legal and enjoys the same privileges and protections as all other agricultural crops in Oregon,” he went on. “We are excited to add this facility to our production infrastructure and continue creating our industry-leading, 100 percent female hemp seed for forward-thinking farmers across the US.”