Lost Coast Outpost reports that ….. Humboldt County Planning Commission unanimously voted to indefinitely extend the county’s industrial hemp moratorium, which has been in effect since May 2019, and to forward an ordinance to the Board of Supervisors that would make the prohibition permanent.
Here’s the introduction to the piece
A time-traveling weed legalization activist from three or four decades ago would probably be confused to arrive in present-day Humboldt County and learn that marijuana is legal while cultivating hemp, weed’s fibrous, non-psychoactive sibling, remains banned throughout the unincorporated land. Yet here we are.
On Thursday, the Humboldt County Planning Commission unanimously voted to indefinitely extend the county’s industrial hemp moratorium, which has been in effect since May 2019, and to forward an ordinance to the Board of Supervisors that would make the prohibition permanent.
There are a couple of exceptions to the ban. First, College of the Redwoods will have permission to seek a special permit that, if approved, would allow hemp to be grown for educational and research purposes on the school’s main campus, just south of Eureka.
Secondly, as the word “industrial” suggests, the ban is meant to prevent commercial-scale operations, so the “personal use” size limits in the county’s Commercial Cannabis Land Use Ordinance (CCLUO) will apply to hemp as well. That means people can grow up to six hemp plants or maintain 100 square feet of cultivation on parcels smaller than an acre; up to 200 square feet on parcels of one to five acres; and up to 400 square feet on parcels larger than that.
Also, individual cities can make their own rules. They can implement their own bans on industrial hemp, as both Blue Lake and Fortuna have done, but if they don’t, hemp cultivation is permitted by default.
In 2020, the Humboldt County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office registered two industrial hemp growers — one growing in Arcata and the other in Rio Dell, according to Ag Commissioner Jeff Dolf. In an email on Monday Dolf said, “We also were contacted by a business in Arcata which expressed interest in producing industrial hemp nursery stock, but as yet have not received a completed application from the interested party.”
Why the ban in the rest of the county? Well, in a series of public hearings and workshops held in 2019, quite a few local cannabis growers came out and voiced concerns that industrial hemp could produce uncontrolled pollen drift along with pests and pathogens that might contaminate their own crops, potentially destroying large swaths of the region’s lucrative commercial cannabis.
This whole debate erupted in 2019 after the federal government — somewhat unexpectedly — lifted its longstanding ban on hemp cultivation with passage of the 2018 farm bill. While hemp has historically and most commonly been grown as a source of durable fiber, used to produce rope, textiles and paper, etc., it can also be cultivated as a source of cannabidiol, aka CBD, a compound that has blossomed into its own lucrative industry. CBD is now regularly infused into food, health and beauty products and marketed as a treatment for conditions such as anxiety, epilepsy, pain and even cancer, though the scientific evidence for those claims remains thin.
While commercial cannabis regulations in California include robust — some say oppressive — systems of permits, fees and taxes, federal legalization of hemp meant that it can be grown more or less like any other agricultural crop. In California that means little more than registering your grow site with your county’s agricultural commissioner and paying a $900 fee.
MEETING MINUTESPLN-2019-15590 Staff Report 1.07.2021(1)