The cultivation of industrial hemp may join commercial cultivation of marijuana as a banned agricultural undertaking on at least a temporary basis in San Joaquin County while proposed rules are sorted out.
The Board of Supervisors on a four-fifths vote could put the temporary ban of the cultivation of hemp in place when they meet Tuesday at 9 a.m. on the sixth floor of the San Joaquin County Administration Building, 44 North San Joaquin St. The item is on the afternoon portion of the agenda.
Hemp and marijuana look similar are not one in the same. While both are derived from the Cannabis Sativa family and have some similarities they have distinct and significant differences. One key difference is the levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that is a factor in psychoactive effects that leads to users getting high.
Hemp contains THC concentrations of 0.3 percent or less while marijuana THC levels range from 15 to 40 percent.
Marijuana is grown for recreational or medicinal use.
Hemp is used primarily for industrial purposes and can be employed in paper, clothing, building materials, bio-fuels, oils, and food products among other items.
The county in September 2017 imposed a ban on hemp cultivation but that applied only to “established agricultural research institutions.” Changes in state and federal law means hemp is no longer a controlled substance making it legal to produce.
The state rules for the registration of hemp growers finalized yet and likely won’t be issued until at least April 2019. Under state law once that process is in place, county agricultural commissioners are required to issue hemp regulations.
The county staff is recommending the interim ban because the state is issuing its regulations on a piecemeal basis. While it is almost ready to issue regulations for processing registrations and granting approval to grow hemp the state has not established sampling and testing protocols prior to harvest or enforcement and abatement protocols.
Once the additional state regulations are in place, staff is recommending the board at that time either lift the temporary ban on growing industrial hemp or make it permanent.
Meanwhile the staff expects to present the board with proposed regulations in May for possible adoption to allow for the processing of applications for commercial cannabis.
Staff has noted that hemp and cannabis are visually indistinguishable, which can create issues such as someone seeking a hemp permit and then using hemp to conceal an illegal commercial cannabis grow. Also the two are not compatible crops and could pose potential land use conflicts.
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