Although hemp cultivation is federally legal, it is no longer allowed in Humboldt County, California. Last week, the county’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to permanently ban the outdoor cultivation of hemp in their county.
This decision may seem shocking because Humboldt County is in the Emerald Triangle, a region that is well known for cannabis cultivation. This is an especially desirable place to grow cannabis because it reportedly has the ideal environment for the plant and a long history of medical marijuana production.
However, this ban was enacted precisely because Humboldt County is so invested in cannabis production. Hemp is just considered the wrong type of cannabis.
Marijuana is such an important crop to the region that authorities reportedly felt they needed to protect the marijuana industry’s interests. According to a recent article in High Times, “Cannabis is practically in Humboldt’s DNA, so it should come as no surprise that the reason for banning outdoor hemp cultivation is actually a pro-cannabis one.”
How a hemp ban could be pro-cannabis
Marijuana and hemp are both cannabis plants. However, they contain different levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the psychoactive component in cannabis plants. Hemp includes cannabis plants that contain 0.3% THC or less. Marijuana includes cannabis plants that contain more than 0.3% THC – often considerably more.
Members of Humboldt County’s marijuana industry were reportedly concerned that the male pollen from the hemp plants could spread into the marijuana fields and reduce cannabinoid levels in the marijuana plants. To prevent problems like this, Humboldt County had a temporary memorandum on outdoor hemp cultivation since 2018. The new ban makes this measure permanent.
Ross Gordon, who is a policy director for the Humboldt County Grower’s Alliance reportedly claimed that the new hemp ban was the right move because of “the many risks that industrial hemp poses to the cannabis industry here.”
Not all stakeholders agree with the ban
Humboldt County’s Agricultural Commissioner Jeff Dolf reportedly told the board that the planning commission has received very little interest in hemp production in that county. However, hemp growers in other parts of the state have reportedly voiced frustration and disappointment over the county’s new hemp ban.
“California is an agricultural state, and why they wouldn’t allow hemp to grow is ludicrous,” Sandro Piancone told Hemp Industry Daily. Piancone is the CEO of Hempacco Co. Inc. in San Diego County, which reportedly manufactures 30 million hemp cigarettes each month from California-grown hemp flower.
The hemp ban in Humboldt County does allow for some exceptions. According to media reports, the ban may be amended for researchers with colleges and universities who want to grow hemp for noncommercial purposes.
The hemp and marijuana industries struggle to coexist peacefully
It seems the interests of the marijuana and hemp industries in California are often pitted against each other. In this state, each county can set its own regulations regarding the crops grown there. Several other counties in California reportedly ban or limit hemp cultivation in an effort to reduce the risk of cross-pollination with marijuana plants. Humboldt County is just the first to make its ban permanent.
However, California’s marijuana and hemp industries have butted heads over other issues as well. For example, California’s state legislature may decide this year to ban smokable hemp flower and hold hemp products to the same quality standards as marijuana products.
The fate of hemp in Humboldt County seems to be decided. However, it is not yet over for the California hemp industry. There are still decisions to be made at state and local levels that have the potential to shape the industry’s future in the state.