Contra Costa County supervisors elevate hemp moratorium, create ordinance

Contra Costa County lifts ban on industrial hemp cultivation

Contra Costa County lifts the ban on industrial hemp cultivation, the ban is due to expire in September.

The supervisory board of the district of Contra Costa lifted its moratorium on industrial hemp cultivation on Tuesday and issued an ordinance that defines an approval procedure and cultivation standards.

The new regulation states that permits can only be issued for cultivation in an agricultural zonal district that is within the boundaries of the East Contra Costa Irrigation District, the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District, or the East Contra Costa groundwater sub-basin, where water levels are stable.

The regulation will also set various requirements and standards for indoor and outdoor growing. Land use permits are valid for five years and can be extended if the permit holder complies with the regulations and an application is made during the period of validity of the permit. The renewed approval would be valid until revoked.

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Regulators dismissed East County’s arguments that growing hemp uses more water than other crops on the same land and leads to more crime. With the moratorium due to expire on September 30th, regulators recognized the need for county regulation.

The ordinance does not allow cultivation within or within a mile of the urban boundaries of the county. The minimum lot size for outdoor cultivation is 5 hectares. Indoor facilities must meet the rules for other structures. Other eligibility requirements include safety plans, shielded lighting, and odor control.

The moratorium was imposed in November 2020 after people living near a handful of industrial growing areas in East Contra Costa complained about smell, light and other factors. The regulators extended the ban twice.

Commercial hemp growing has been legal in Contra Costa County since 2018 when the first five growers were approved. Hemp has many commercial uses, including food, clothing, medicine, and building materials. Neighbors said they were not warned that hemp farmers are coming to the area and that the growers are violating the permit requirements.