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The Solano County Board of Supervisors unanimously extended a moratorium on growing or processing industrial hemp in the county, then moved to adopt a new ordinance governing the cultivation of hemp in the county.
Tuesday’s extension of the moratorium allows the ordinance to go through a second, yet-to-be scheduled reading and also the 30-day period required for it to take effect, without leaving a gap during which unregulated hemp growing might be able to take place, county officials said.
The supervisors last November passed a 45-day urgency moratorium on hemp cultivation, then extended it through this Nov. 5. The moves came in response to community concerns about odor and crop theft that had led private hemp growers to hire private security personnel.
“From hearing from the residents, it was the wild, wild west,” said Board Chairwoman Erin Hannigan. “You had maybe untrained, poorly trained security personnel who were shooting at people, who were running folks down on other private property and the whole bit.”
With the urgency ordinance set to expire, the supervisors needed to extend it to have something in place while they adopted new regulations, Solano County Assistant County Administrator Bill Emlen said.
Solano is now one of 17 California counties with a hemp moratorium in place, though some are likewise in the process of developing hemp growing ordinances.
Tougher permit requirements
The new ordinance would set a strict set of requirements growers have to meet before they can get permits, and restricts cultivation to a sparsely populated area of about 60,000 acres within the borders of state Highway 13, Highway 12, Midway Road and the county’s eastern border with Yolo County.
To get a permit — which would be valid for a year before it must be renewed by the director of resource management — hemp farmers must go through a public hearing; submit a security plan to the Solano County Sheriff’s Office for approval; own the property or have notarized permission to grow hemp on it; have a crop destruction plan in place; and deposit security funds with the county, among other conditions.
Permit conditions would include that hemp farmers would have to consent to site inspections; harvested hemp could remain outside only for one day; and permit holders would be responsible for county costs in regulating hemp operations.
“From hearing from the residents, it was the wild, wild west. You had maybe untrained, poorly trained security personnel who were shooting at people, who were running folks down on other private property and the whole bit.”Supervisor Erin Hannigan
Crops must also be tested prior to harvest and contain no more than the maximum allowed 0.3 percent of THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana. Crops that tested above 1 percent THC, or that tested above 0.3 percent twice, would have to be destroyed.
The new ordinance would take effect at a time that California s hemp industry has contracted, said Solano County Agricultural Commissioner Ed King. A year ago there were 35,000 acres of hemp ground registered in the state, compared to just less than 16,000 acres this year, King said.
“It’s been a much more measured, cautious approach this year,” King said. “There was a rush to get on hemp growing last year — we felt that up and down the state. This year has been much more subdued to this point.”
Hannigan asked, “Do you think some of that is a result of some of the similar situations we notice here in Solano County with hemp growers?”
“Certainly,” said King.
Responsive to public concerns
Supervisor James Spering said he wanted the public safety issues addressed more firmly, and mechanisms in place to ensure residents’ concerns — about odor for example — would be promptly addressed. He suggested the ordinance needed to be more responsive to those concerns.
“I just wish we would have erred on the side of the public, the people who are actually dealing with this problem,” Spering said. “Those are the two issues I m concerned about, that we have some enforcement so that you can deal with that public nuisance at the time it’s happening, and that we have approved security services or certified individuals to be part of this.”
County staff said that where the permitting process wasn’t able to address residents’ concerns, the county would be able to go to court to put a stop to the offending activity.
Supervisor Skip Thomson, who with Supervisor John Vasquez served on a task force to evaluate options for regulating hemp cultivation, said, “These are all the things that we heard the public and our neighbors complain about and I think it’s been addressed. Perfect? Maybe not, but I think as we move forward, we’ll be able to refine the ordinance.”