Hemp on Santa Barbara’s Horizon

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As the county supervisors continue to choke on secondhand political smoke generated by Santa Barbara’s emergent cannabis sector, county regulators are bracing for a new onslaught of interest in the cultivation of hemp, which the federal government legalized for industrial purposes a year ago. Ahead of that, it was classified as a harmful Schedule I drug like heroin or LSD. Hemp is practically identical to cannabis, except it has a great deal reduce amounts of psychoactive THC compounds. As a designated agricultural solution, hemp is not topic to the identical oversight and restrictions as cannabis.

To date, 77 would-be operators have currently expressed interest in acquiring county approval to develop hemp on an industrial and industrial scale. Correct now, federal guidelines enable hemp production only if carried out below the auspices of a study institution. At present, there are 10 hemp study operations in 21 unique areas all through the northern and central components of Santa Barbara County.

Longtime Republican politician and farmer Abel Maldonado, the scion of a massive loved ones agricultural operation in Santa Maria, and lieutenant governor below Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, it turns out, runs 1 of these hemp operations.

The total acreage of all the county’s present hemp operations is not recognized, the county’s Agriculture Commissioner Cathy Fisher told the supervisors. Operators, she mentioned, are essential only to give the GPS coordinates for their cultivation web sites, and quite a few of these areas proved to be inaccurate. But six of the 10 current hemp operations, she added, occupy 256 acres.

The significant query the supervisors wanted to know was how a great deal hemp stunk. “It’s nowhere close to as pungent as cannabis,” their ag commissioner told them. Not an in particular reassuring answer, provided the troubles currently brought on by cannabis odors.

Mainly, Fisher delivered an fascinating show-and-inform about hemp cultivation in the United States. Presidents Washington and Jefferson each grew it commercially, and till 1937 ​— ​when hemp was outlawed along with cannabis ​— ​hemp seed, fiber, and oil had been employed extensively in the manufacture of paper, rope, fabrics, and feed.

Also, it is not totally clear when hemp can be commercially cultivated, below what federal and state guidelines, and to what extent ​— ​if any ​— ​local governments can regulate exactly where and how hemp is cultivated. The State Legislature just passed a bill attempting to answer some of these inquiries, but the governor hasn’t signed it however. If and when he does, the federal government need to approve the state’s legislative handiwork. And the federal recommendations haven’t been released however.

For all this uncertainty, hemp has the makings of an financial game changer. It is grown for its CBDs, compounds believed to have substantial medicinal worth and no psychoactive properties. America’s appetite for CBDs, or cannabidiol, is driving hemp production, which jumped from 25,000 acres two years ago to 78,000 nowadays. Most is grown in Kentucky, but 42 California counties enable some type of hemp cultivation ​— ​Ventura County amongst the most permissive.

Andy Caldwell, spokesperson for the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture &amp Small business, spoke glowingly of hemp’s guarantee, saying it can be employed in the manufacture of hundreds of solutions and could build a massive quantity of higher-paying manufacturing jobs. But hemp can be cultivated by massive industrial-sized combines, does not want quite a few workers to choose it, and provided the shortage of workers and water, it could be perfect for the Central Coast.

Supervisor Peter Adam ​— ​a rancher and a farmer ​— ​spoke in terms bordering on outright despair. “This is going to be a replay of the cannabis debacle,” he predicted. “I am glad I am leaving.” Adam, whose term in workplace expires quickly, has often expressed concern that regulations on cannabis would open the door to regulations on other crops.

County Counsel Mike Ghizzoni, having said that, believed the new state law would almost certainly not give county governments a great deal regulatory firepower. “It would be a incredibly restricted type of land-use handle,” he stated.

Mainly because cannabis is eaten or inhaled, state pesticide guidelines concerning the plant are amongst the strictest in the state. Hemp, below the present situation, has no such restrictions. That, no doubt, will alter as it is increasingly ingested by these looking for healthcare relief. Supervisor Das Williams, who has taken considerable heat from critics of cannabis, worried that noncompliant cannabis growers could attempt to hide their black-market place cannabis in fields of hemp. Who would know? How could any one inform?

A couple of years ago, county inspectors and law enforcement officers harbored such suspicions about a crop Abel Maldonado was developing. In a properly-publicized inspection, they took samples. It turned out to be hemp, just as an angry Maldonado had insisted.

And Supervisor Steve Lavagnino told a story of some would-be cannabis thieves who mistakenly ripped out plants from a hemp field. “It’s going to be a significant bummer when they locate out,” he mentioned.  

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