Oct. 25, 2019: The county’s ad hoc hemp committee met today at the Lake County Courthouse. Supervisor Bruno Sabatier was present and was elected committee chair; Supervisor Rob Brown was absent and was elected vice chair. Lance Williams and Hank Lescher were present, representing the cannabis and hemp industries, respectively. Other committee members in attendance included Brenna Sullivan, Lake County Farm Bureau; Steven Hajik, Lake County agricultural commissioner; and Michalyn DelValle, Community Development director.
Sabatier gave a brief overview of federal and state laws governing industrial hemp cultivation, including the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. He presented a list of potential agenda subjects for future meetings, including setbacks, restrictions, requirements and fees. During public comment, several of the dozen audience members present suggested more topics for discussion, including reported crop damage to several cannabis cultivation sites; the need for a moratorium or urgency ordinance to be enacted before the next growing season; and possible bans on outdoor seed breeding or cultivation of male hemp plants.
The ultimate goal of the committee is to present recommendations for a hemp ordinance to the Board of Supervisors. The next meeting was set for 2 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13, in the board chambers in Lakeport.
Sept. 10, 2019: Lake County supervisors were presented with a rough draft of an industrial hemp ordinance prepared at the request of the Agricultural Commissioner’s office, but the board gave no direction to staff. (I discussed talking points from my more comprehensive draft hemp ordinance during public comment.) The board approved creation of an ad hoc industrial hemp committee comprising Supervisors Ron Brown and Bruno Sabatier; the Agricultural Commissioner and Community Development Director; and three public members to be appointed after an application process: One cannabis grower, one hemp grower, and one representative of the Lake County Farm Bureau. Committee meetings will be noticed and open to the public.
Recent changes in federal law make it legal to cultivate industrial hemp in all 50 U.S. states. The California Department of Food and Agriculture has created a registration process for cultivators and seed breeders under its Industrial Hemp Program, but the County of Lake has not yet drafted or enacted local hemp regulations. (CDFA directory of registrants..)
Depending on site-specific circumstances, large-scale hemp cultivation sites may pose an existential threat to cannabis growers trying to grow seedless plants to maturity and harvest. That’s because pollen from male hemp plants can drift to cannabis plants several miles away, which can lead to cross-pollination with female plants and resulting crop damage. Although some hemp cultivators use feminized seeds, similar to cannabis growers, other hemp growers do not. All seed-breeders, and any outdoor growers who fail to locate and destroy male and hermaphroditic plants throughout the growing season, can release male hemp pollen into the air intentionally or inadvertently.
Rogue, airborne hemp pollen can damage or devalue cannabis and hemp plants, just like airborne cannabis pollen. This creates direct and indirect land-use conflicts for people who grow cannabis, whether for personal or commercial use.
Large-scale hemp cultivation sites also may impact neighbors and rural communities, primarily by means of nuisance odors. Unlike cannabis farms, which are capped at one (1) acre per license, the size of hemp operations isn’t capped at all. Industrial hemp sites ranging from one-tenth acre to 80 acres have been registered with the county Agriculture Department since May 1. Currently, neither Lake County officials nor individual hemp growers are required to notify adjacent landowners or the general public before hemp cultivation or seed-breeding commences.
Last revision: Oct. 25, 2019