Wednesday, February 8, 2023     Volume: 23, Issue: 49

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on October 14th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 32 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 20, Issue 32

County holds preliminary hemp regulation discussion

By Zac Ezzone

While the federal government is still crafting a regulatory framework for industrial hemp, Santa Barbara County is beginning to figure out how the crop will become part of the local agriculture industry.

After state and federal agencies complete their regulatory plans for hemp, the crop could make its way to Santa Barbara County next year.

Hemp is a variety of cannabis with a THC concentration of less than 0.3 percent. THC is the psychoactive compound in marijuana, which is also a strain of cannabis. Hemp has a number of uses, including fiber, paper, and oils, the latter of which is often marketed as having medical benefits.

During the Oct. 8 Board of Supervisors meeting, county Agriculture Commissioner Cathy Fisher updated the Board of Supervisors on current state and federal regulations for industrial hemp, following Congress’ approval of the 2018 farm bill, which removed hemp’s status as an illegal substance. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is currently working on a regulatory plan for the crop, which it plans to release this fall. Following that, the California Department of Food and Agriculture will submit the state’s regulatory plan to the federal government. 

After the USDA approves the state’s plan, the county can create its own local regulations for hemp. Currently, farmers in the county can only grow hemp through a partnership with a research institution, like Allan Hancock College. However, because hemp is an agriculture product, it limits the county’s ability to regulate the crop. 

Supervisors discussed potential regulatory options available to them to avoid some issues that could arise from the crops’ similarities to the marijuana grown in the county. For example, supervisors questioned potential odor concerns that could arise from hemp. The crop, while not as pungent as cannabis, does have an odor, Fisher said.

County Counsel Michael Ghizzoni said the Board of Supervisors likely wouldn’t be able to prohibit hemp cultivation, but it could pass some form of land use restrictions.

Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said he doesn’t want supervisors to impose unnecessary regulations on hemp solely because it looks similar to marijuana. 

“I really don’t want to treat hemp any differently than any other ag product, because that’s exactly what it is,” Lavagnino said. “It shouldn’t be blamed because it looks like its cousin.”

First District Supervisor Das Williams said although he’s not sure whether hemp will cause problems in the county, supervisors should approach the situation cautiously when it reaches the county next year. 

“If we treat this as we do all other agriculture, then it will be an easy way for growers that have either been rejected by our planning process from growing marijuana or have been busted for not adhering to our rules, to simply circumvent our rules and pretty much create the same product,” Williams said. 

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