The Global Hemp Innovation Center was launched in 2018 at Oregon State University and is the nation’s largest research center devoted to the study of hemp with more than 65 faculty representing 19 academic disciplines engaged in research, teaching, and extension services.
Hemp has the potential to become a major agricultural commodity in the United States and abroad with hemp plant fiber being used in manufactured products, including clothing, construction materials, and packaging. Meanwhile, hemp seed oil is being investigated for use in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, foods, and nutraceuticals. For example, hemp has a long tradition of use in treating ailments by eastern medicine.
Industrial hemp and products are a rapidly growing sector in agricultural markets globally. With the passage of the federal farm legislation in 2014 and 2018, a broad spectrum of commercial interests continues to emerge for this crop, especially with respect to its refined essential oils.
Why Oregon State University
Beginning in 1936, the federal government prohibited the propagation of hemp plants. Oregon authorized hemp cultivation in 2009, but the Oregon Department of Agriculture did not license its first hemp grower until 2015. Just three years later, Oregon ranked third in the United States in licensed hemp acres planted behind Montana and Colorado. The 2018 farm bill decriminalized the propagation of hemp, and it is anticipated that over the next year the federal government will have a framework in place to commercially produce and utilize hemp grown in the U.S.
OSU is well-situated to provide research, teaching, and outreach and engagement associated with hemp, with strategic alignment between our research community, the university’s experiment stations, and the OSU Extension Service to engage in strong basic research, applied research, and scholarly teaching.
Further, we have leading researchers who are on the front lines of defining and understanding the agricultural, economic opportunities, and public health benefits of hemp. These include more than 65 faculty across 19 disciplines engaged in plant research, food innovation, pharmacy, public health, public policy, business, and engineering.
In addition to the academic expertise and integrated relationships already embedded in the fabric of OSU, the state's geographic location lends itself to pioneering this field. Oregon’s location on the 45th parallel is optimal for hemp growth and unique hemp germplasm – the genetic material used for breeding – was developed in the state over the past several decades.
Oregon is home to more than 220 agricultural commodities, with growers and producers that have the diversity of experience and expertise to successfully navigate the future development of hemp. Currently, the state has licensed more than 1,300 growers to plant nearly 50,000 acres of hemp this year, according to the Oregon Department of Agriculture. That total is nearly six times greater than the 7,808 acres planted in 2018. Nationally, the number of licensed acres devoted to hemp cultivation increased by 204% from 2017 to 2018, according to Vote Hemp, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization.
Finally, Oregon has more than a century of leadership in hemp. The university, then known as Oregon Agricultural College, partnered with scientists in the U.S. Department of Agriculture to host a national hemp research center from the 1880s until 1936 -- the only hemp research center in the nation at the time.
The Global Hemp Innovation Center is a return home for the nation's leading hemp research organization as it provides a virtual hub for research taking place around the world.