Humboldt County’s ongoing prohibition of industrial hemp may continue if the Board of Supervisors extends the ban on industrial cultivation for a year. (Getty Images)
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The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors will consider whether to extend a moratorium on the cultivation of industrial hemp during its regular meeting on Tuesday.

The current moratorium is set to expire on Christmas Day. The extension, if approved, would push the moratorium through Dec. 25, 2020.

Last month, the board voted unanimously to reject regulations for industrial hemp regulations.

“I get the sense that most of us feel that we need to put the brakes on this,” 2nd District Supervisor Estelle Fennell said about hemp cultivation during the Nov. 19 meeting.

Hemp is a nonpsychoactive variant of cannabis that does not get people high. It is commonly used to process CBD, which has spiked in interest in recent years for its medicinal qualities.

Moratorium

On Tuesday, the board will vote whether to extend the moratorium. County staff is urging to board to extend the ban.

“The board may choose to not adopt the extension ordinance which would lead to near term approval of industrial hemp cultivation without consideration of the potential impacts,” the staff report states. “Staff is not recommending this alternative because the potentially significant impacts may be prevented with a more deliberate and methodical approach as recommended by staff.”

Speakers at public meetings in October expressed concerns that industrial hemp could inadvertently pollinate existing permitted cannabis grow sites. Following comments from the public, the Humboldt County Planning Commission voted to recommend that the board deny hemp the ordinance.

The ban requires a four-fifths vote to pass. The moratorium could be further extended “for a total of up to two years,” according to county documents.

Legislative platform

Industrial hemp is also part of the county’s proposed legislative platform, which is also expected to be discussed by supervisors on Tuesday. With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, the federal government found that hemp should not be considered a controlled substance when there is less than 0.3% THC, the psychoactive component, in the plant. With the passage of the bill, states and counties have scrambled to create regulations for hemp, which can be a cost-heavy process. Out of concerns that would create a financial hardship for the county, the legislative platform seeks funding and resources for regulatory actions.

“Humboldt County opposes legislation creating local mandates or programs that do not provide 100% funding and resources for additional regulatory activities to be carried out by Agricultural Commissioners or Sealers,” the proposed legislative platform states. “Humboldt County also opposes any legislative initiatives that impair or restrict local land use authority.”

Ruth Schneider can be reached at 707-441-0520.

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