OKFB: More than 20 plant growing operations have converted to industrial hemp, medical marijuana

OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma Farm Bureau said at least 25 traditional growing operations have either partially or fully converted their spaces to include industrial hemp or medical marijuana.

"On the medical marijuana, it’s been all very recent since that state question passed," said Oklahoma Farm Bureau president Rodd Moesel. "On the industrial hemp, there were a few growers that were experimenting and starting to learn about industrial hemp even before that because the federal law changed and legalized industrial hemp in Oklahoma as long as you were cooperating with the university."

According to Moesel, Oklahoma still has more than 600 traditional growers in the bedding plant business. Most of the dozens of the existing operations which now include hemp or medical marijuana have undergone partial conversions.

"We’ve had one or two that have converted their whole operation over," he said. "There have been a number of bedding plant operations and several container nursery stock operations that were growing shrubs and small trees that would have ended up at garden centers or landscapers that have made the conversion, so that’s going to certainly have some impact on supply."

Moesel said the supply effect may not be as apparent in the beginning of the season, but it could change as the season folds.

"If they were growing several hundred flats of petunias, several thousand flats of periwinkle and suddenly that production isn’t there — that’s being used to grow industrial hemp or medical marijuana — then there will be less of those petunias and periwinkles and geraniums," he said.

Guthrie Greenhouses sells annuals, perennials and vegetables in Oklahoma and surrounding states.

"In June 2018, we got one of the first three licenses to grow industrial hemp, so of course we had to try that because we wanted to see if it was going to be lucrative as well as fit into our business model of growing plants," said co-owner Jesse Tischauer. "Of course, [State Question] 788 passed about a month after we got our industrial hemp license, so then we began ramping up to grow medical marijuana."

Tischauer said 10.5 acre greenhouse grows about 6 million bedding plants a year. They now plan to produce between 100,000 and 200,000 hemp clones, along with upwards of 100,000 medical marijuana plants.

"We work seven days a week, 18 hours a day in the spring anyway and now we’ve got two new businesses," he said. "There was a couple of crops we decided not to do in the bedding plant side the things that people wanted the least and the things that were the least profitable for us so we just reduced those numbers to make more space."

Under The Sun is a garden center with locations across the metro, plus Stillwater and Tulsa. General manager and area director Jace Cannedy said they work with five or seven different growers, some of which have converted their spaces.

According to Cannedy, they haven't seen a dramatic decrease in plant products, but inventory has changed.

"We’ve definitely seen these growers change the product lines in the amount of inventory they have and other lines go down, so we might have had to increase the amount of product that we got from another grower," Cannedy said. "We’ve just had to explore other options as far as where we get certain product from, but it hasn’t really been that difficult really; it’s just been expanding our own product lines."

As for wholesale and retailer cost changes, the OKFB said it is possible if there is a shortage in supply.

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