By Debra Tash
The Ventura County Board of Supervisors held a special meeting in Moorpark, November 19 2019 at 6 PM. The City’s Council Chamber was at overflow capacity.
County Counsel stated that even though the licensing is regulated by the state for growing hemp it is within the Board’s power to regulate its cultivation under the Board’s authority with land use. The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2018 Hemp Farming Act of 2018, H.R.5485 – Hemp Farming Act of 2018. was passed by Congress. This bill legalized industrial hemp that has a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana) concentration of less than .03 percent. It is not a hallucinogenic. The crop’s cycle is from three to four months and is planted in the late spring and harvested in late fall. The planting in the County was delayed due to regulations being finalized.
Ed Williams, the Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner, gave a Power Point presentation laying out the pros and cons of growing the crop. Supervisor Kelly Long asked as to the length of time, and why, there is such a strong odor from hemp. Williams claimed the smell lasts a month or two as it flowers. The audience reacted negatively to that statement. He did say that if a greenhouse enclosure were required that the air can be filtered.
The Ag Commissioner’s Power Point Presentation Highlights:
Ventura County is listed in the top five counties for growing hemp.
In his presentation benefits and drawbacks of Hemp were highlighted.
Gold Box Solutions Inc/Golden Eagle 4, LLC which has about 90 acres in hemp in the Tierra Rejada Valley has decidedly impacted its neighbors in the Moorpark area. Of the concerns listed the public voiced that the odor has affected the community the most. Claims of being made sick and that they can no longer enjoy the outside around their homes were also voiced. Most were opposed to growing the crop. A farmer who cultivates four acres of hemp apologized to the people there but listed all the hardships of farming. Several other farmers also spoke for supporting hemp in the County, extolling its health benefits.
Chief of Police Victor Fazio from Moorpark’s Ventura County Sheriff’s office asked for more security since growing the crop has been linked to local crimes. This was also been noted in the Commissioner’s report.
City officials from Moorpark, Ojai and Camarillo also spoke, not only against the odor and blight but the increase of crime it has created.
Rob Roy, a lawyer representing agricultural interests, mentioned that limiting the growers could lead to a federal lawsuit. Lynn Jensen from CoLab requested that there be balance in any regulation enacted.
After public commentary Long asked the Ag Commissioner if the crop were finished for the year. It is possible that there could be a winter planting. She also inquired if the Board regulates this crop if it would interfere with the “Right to Farm”. County Consul advised the board that it would not interfere.
Supervisor Zaragozas wanted to move to accept the Commissioner’s report and that the Board direct staff to come up with additional studies and mitigation measures. Maybe come out with ways to reduce the odor and keep growers away from impacted uses with setbacks
Supervisor Long suggested a six months moratorium be put on growing the crop.
Linda Parks proposed closing the registry to more growers and doing something to limit the existing growers.
Huber said that most of the complaints received were in his district. He wants at least a 2000 foot setback.
There were proposed mitigation measures in the Commissioner’s presentation.
Long was concerned when staff could come back with answers as to stopping additional growers and how to mitigate the impacts by created by existing licensees.
The supervisors voted to accept the report and to have staff come back as soon as possible with a way to regulate the industry before the next growing season and to have the Agricultural Commissioner office as the lead agency.
Supervisors Parks, Huber, Long and Zaragozas were attendance along with County CEO Mike Powers, Supervisor Bennett was absent.
Debra Tash is Editor-in-Chief of Citizensjournal.us, past president for Citizens Alliance for Property Rights, business executive and award-winning author, residing in Somis.