Legendary California marijuana-growing region Humboldt permanently bans hemp cultivation

A renowned marijuana-growing county in northern California’s Emerald Triangle, Humboldt County, has permanently banned outdoor cultivation of low-THC hemp varieties.

The unanimous vote by the county Board of Supervisors last week comes after marijuana interests in the area argued that hemp could send male pollen onto higher-THC varieties and depress cannabinoid levels, the (Eureka) Times-Standard reported.

Humboldt County has had a temporary moratorium on outdoor hemp cultivation since 2018.

Ross Gordon, policy director for the Humboldt County Grower’s Alliance, told the county board of supervisors that the county’s hemp moratorium should be made permanent because of the “many risks that industrial hemp poses to the cannabis industry here.”

(California defines cannabis as only Cannabis sativa plants above 0.3% THC, excluding all low-THC varieties of the plant.)

Many California counties ban or limit hemp cultivation in order to reduce cross-pollination conflicts between marijuana and hemp growers. Humboldt is the first to make its ban permanent.

The vote sparked immediate dismay from the state’s hemp operators.

“California is an agricultural state, and why they wouldn’t allow hemp to grow is ludicrous,” said Sandro Piancone, CEO of Hempacco Co. Inc. in San Diego County, which manufactures 30 million smokable hemp cigarettes a month from flower grown in California.

Humboldt County’s ban may be amended to allow noncommercial hemp research by colleges and universities, the county planner told the board of supervisors.

Outdoor marijuana and hemp farmers are increasingly coming to loggerheads over pollen drift as the production of both increases. Some states, such as Pennsylvania, mandate setbacks between marijuana and hemp farms.

In California, counties determine how and where the crops can be grown, leading to a patchwork of rules.

Humboldt County Agricultural Commissioner Jeff Dolf told the board that the planning commission has received very little interest regarding hemp production.

Humboldt’s ban comes as hemp operators in California are also raising alarms about a pending bill in the state legislature that would ban smokable hemp entirely and require hemp products to undergo the same quality and purity testing faced by the state’s marijuana producers.

Humboldt County is about the size of Connecticut and has thousands of residents employed in outdoor marijuana production.

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