Monterey County, CA: We Changed Our Mind, Hemp is a Little Like Cannabis....

Monterey’s County Board of Supervisors adopted an Industrial Hemp Pilot Program that will restrict the size, location, and the number of industrial hemp cultivators allowed in unincorporated areas of the county. The county will accept registration requests until August 31, 2020, and grant 30 registrations. To date, the county has received over 50 requests to cultivate hemp.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture established an industrial hemp program for the registration of industrial hemp cultivators. Under the program, applicants must register with a local county agricultural commissioner and abide by any local restrictions.

Monterey’s County Planning Commission held a meeting on July 10th during which the group debated whether hemp is an agricultural commodity or as cannabis. The Planning Commission concluded that hemp is a commodity that should be treated without restrictions.

During a meeting on July 23, the Board of Supervisors reversed that decision and adopted an ordinance that established an industrial hemp pilot program. The Board of Supervisors debated the impact of odors on local communities such as King City; the likelihood that hemp growers could inadvertently contaminate cannabis crops; and the lack of data available that is required to make clear decisions as to the effectiveness of buffer zones.

Monterey County is not alone in its hesitancy to treat hemp as an agricultural commodity. According to our data, seventeen (17) counties currently allow hemp cultivation, twenty-six (26) counties implemented a temporary moratorium that would give them time to figure out what to do, fifteen (15) counties are silent on whether hemp is permitted, and two (2) counties are moving quickly towards implementation.

Calfornia cities are also acting to prohibit hemp cultivation with Blue Lake, Furtuna, Hollister, Lake Forest, Pittsburg, San Jacinto all recently adopted moratoriums. We expect that more cities will move to prohibit hemp until more information is available as to the impact on local communities. It appears that the hemp industry will be constrained in California until more information is available on effective buffering zones that can mitigate the pungency of hemp odors and cross-pollination concerns.