Sonoma County Organizing Commission approves guidelines to govern hemp crop, paving way for legal market


Seven months just after Sonoma County supervisors narrowly authorized a ban on industrial hemp cultivation, the crop appears poised for a reset, with arranging commissioners voting Thursday to advocate a new governing framework that would enable cultivation to move forward.

The Organizing Commission voted four-1 to advance guidelines favored by hemp advocates to supervisors, who will choose throughout a Dec. 16 meeting whether or not the guidelines are adequate to reverse a ban they place in spot April two.

Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore, who along with Supervisor Lynda Hopkins led the charge final year in enacting the moratorium, mentioned the proposal represented the sort of work that the board had sought — a monthslong approach to establish sound guidelines for a new crop. The moratorium, Gore mentioned, purchased the county time beyond the green light provided in the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp.

“It was a knee-jerk to a knee-jerk,” Gore mentioned.

The ordinance outlines regions exactly where hemp cultivation will be permitted — inside every of 3 agriculture-certain zones, as nicely as the county’s agriculture and residential zone and its sources and rural improvement zone, every of which favor agriculture as a permitted use. Other provisions incorporate registration of cultivation websites, testing and setbacks from neighboring properties.

The measures are much less restrictive than these adopted by the county for industrial cannabis, a close cousin of hemp that appears and smells rather related.

The important distinction is that hemp, by legal definition, has only trace amounts of the intoxicant tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Alternatively, the plant’s industrial guarantee lies in cannabidiol, or CBD, a compound currently in wide use as a nonprescription remedy for chronic discomfort, anxiousness, acne, insomnia and other situations. CBD can be extracted from female hemp plants.

Hemp advocates welcomed the new guidelines, which mark the start out of what Agricultural Commissioner Tony Linegar referred to as an financial chance for farmers and Sonoma County’s $1 billion farm sector.

“I consider the ordinance strikes a fantastic balance in between the neighbors’ issues, the cannabis industry’s issues, as nicely as the government’s issues as it relates to the atmosphere,” mentioned Erich Pearson, founder of the SPARC dispensary network and a co-founder of the Cannabis Small business Association of Sonoma County.

The Organizing Commission necessary setbacks of 600 feet from occupied structures and 200 feet from home lines. It prohibited hemp cultivation in rural residential zones.

Organizing Commissioner Pamela Davis, the panel’s lone no vote, mentioned she opposed hemp cultivation in certain regions zoned “Agriculture and Residential,” citing earlier opposition to cannabis operations close to rural properties. Davis is an appointee of Supervisor Lynda Hopkins.

Linegar, who endorsed the ban in April, presented the proposed ordinance Thursday, and highlighted the need to have to diversify the county’s agricultural base. He gave a complete-throated defense of the county’s Appropriate to Farm Ordinance, which renders moot most complaints about agriculture-connected noise, smells and side effects.

“We get individuals moving in, creating mansions, not working with the land for agriculture, and then complaining,” Linegar mentioned. “I’m quite disturbed by this. If we enable individuals to do this, we are eroding our appropriate to farm.”

Some residents sought to quit hemp prior to it could commence, raising issues about water use, crime, smell and plunging home values. Advocates, meanwhile, extolled the virtues of hemp as the prospective remedy for worldwide warming, pointing to its potential to draw carbon out of the atmosphere and replace goods produced from fossil fuels.


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