Mad River Union
After nearly two years of temporarily banning industrial hemp farming, Humboldt County’s Board of Supervisors has approved an ordinance that permanently prohibits it.
The context of the ban is the county’s commercial cannabis industry and the potential of hemp cross-pollination. But there’s recognition of hemp’s value as a source of food, fiber and medicine so allowances for research-related cultivation, including at the campus of College of the Redwoods (CR), will be considered later.
The Board of Supervisors held a final hearing on the hemp ban at its February 9 meeting, which caps a series of temporary bans that began in 2019.
Hemp is only distinguishable by its very low THC content and high concentration of CBD.
The debate over it played out once again at last week’s hearing, with a minority of industrial hemp supporters saying that the risk of pollen exchange can be managed through use of feminized seeds and culling male plants.
Industrial hemp opponents argued that crop controls are unreliable when farming reaches industrial scales and Humboldt’s cannabis is too valuable an asset to put at risk.
Agricultural Commissioner Jeff Dolf said that there’s been very little interest in larger-scale hemp farming.
There is interest in smaller-scale medicinal CBD production, however, and the expensive process of cannabis permitting has been seen as an impediment to it.
But last October, supervisors approved a change to cannabis rules that allows cultivation up to 2,000 square feet of any type of cannabis through a low fixed-cost process that’s guaranteed be completed within 30 days.
That was cited as a viable avenue for CBD producers. “It’s not a ban on hemp, it’s a ban on industrial hemp,” said Supervisor Steve Madrone of the prohibition.
It was unanimously approved. A second prong of hemp regulation – consideration of a special permit for CR’s research and education hemp farm – is subject to coastal rules and will be separately reviewed by the Planning Commission and supervisors.