Humboldt County’s Board of Directors passed an emergency ordinance Tuesday to extend a temporary moratorium on industrial hemp growing in the coastal zone for an additional six months pending feedback from the California Coastal Commission.
In February, the board had unanimously decided on a permanent ban on industrial hemp cultivation, which replaced the temporary moratorium, which was supposed to expire on May 10th. Although the ban was “permanent”, the regulation was passed with the intention of being amended at a later date to allow non-commercial hemp cultivation for research purposes.
The College of the Redwoods announced an interest in limited industrial hemp cultivation for educational and research purposes on its Tompkins Hill Road campus in October 2020. Employees of the Humboldt County Planning Commission then drafted ordinances for industrial hemp inland and on the coast, which the existing moratorium in unincorporated areas of. continued the county with one exception for CR through a special permit process.
During a meeting of the regulatory authorities on May 18, the board passed a 45-day temporary moratorium on the cultivation of industrial hemp by “established agricultural research institutes” and all industrial hemp growers in the coastal zone, according to the staff’s report. Since the coastal zone border bisects the CR campus, the Coastal Ordinance was forwarded to the Coastal Commission for review.
Michael Richardson, Humboldt County’s chief planner, noted that Tuesday’s agenda item “continues a conversation we’ve had for several years.”
“We have issued a moratorium in the interior of the district and are waiting for the Coastal Commission to put our moratorium into effect in the coastal parts of the district,” he said. “While we wait, we want to ban all cultivation in the meantime.”
If the extended moratorium were approved, it would take another six months to give the Coastal Commission time to review and approve the county’s proposed ordinance, Richardson said.
Fifth District Supervisor Steve Madrone noted that the moratorium at hand affected industrial hemp growing and not personal use.
“At the state level, personal use still prevails, so you can legally grow six cannabis plants per home without a permit,” he said. “So if you want to grow high-CBD hemp, you can do it with six plants. (If you want to) grow THC plants, you can grow these six plants. For those looking for CBD for personal use, you can. I just want to make sure people realize that this doesn’t prevent that. “
Third district director Mike Wilson asked Humboldt County’s Director of Planning and Construction, John Ford, to clarify why a coastal zone ban was necessary.
“That six-plant minimum really applies to state law, doesn’t it?” Asked Wilson. “The point is basically that if we didn’t have that ban, you could grow as much as you want in terms of hemp and CBD, and I think, as far as I understand, none of the city jurisdictions have that ban. still.”
“I think everything is right,” said Ford. “Arcata allows hemp and I’m not sure what Eureka and Fortuna are doing.”
After about 10 minutes of discussion, the superiors unanimously voted 5-0 for the emergency ordinance.
The Board of Directors will review the approval of a special permit for CR after the Coastal Commission has reviewed the Coastal Use Ordinance.