Colusa County could soon be open for local farmers to produce industrial hemp, a cannabis plant that lacks the high levels of THC, the principal psychoactive constituent of marijuana.
The California Office of Administrative Law approved regulations on April 30 that will enable the California Department of Food and Agriculture to open registration with county agricultural commissioners for industrial hemp cultivation.
The same day, Board of Supervisors Chairman Kent Boes and Supervisor Denise Carter agreed to work together as an ad hoc committee on developing a hemp cultivation program locally.
“This is an important new crop that has generated interest all over the state,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross, in a statement. “With OAL endorsing this regulation, CDFA and its county partners will continue to cooperatively move forward with industrial hemp production in California.”
Meanwhile, Colusa County’s ban of all cannabis production will remain in effect, except where permitted indoors on Colusa Industrial Properties, which is currently in the process of being annexed into the City of Colusa.
California plans to propose additional regulations for industrial hemp cultivation later this year, including sampling and testing procedures, and the establishment of an agricultural pilot program.
Hemp is defined as cannabis with less that 0.3 percent THC, while recreational marijuana can have up to 25-30 percent THC.
Interest in hemp production has grown in Colusa County since the 2018 U.S. farm bill removed hemp from the list of Schedule 1 controlled substances, making it an ordinary agricultural commodity.
“I’ve talked to probably three or four folks – some of them are established farmers – who have plots out of the way from everybody and think they might like to try this on a few acres,” said Colusa County Community Services Director Greg Plucker. “There are folks that are interested in doing this.”
The popularity of hemp in the U.S. stems largely from the popularity of CBD oil for medicinal purposes, although hemp can also be used to make clothing, paper, construction materials, and fuel.
“It’s a very fibrous plant and there is a whole host of different products that are produced from the plant itself,” Plucker said.
Plucker said with the recent changes in state and federal law, the county is looking forward to coming up with options for hemp production when state regulations are put into place.
However, current state and federal law restricts CBD from being placed in food and dietary supplements, which could limit local markets, and the 2018 farm bill also requires states submit their regulatory plans for USDA approval prior to becoming effective.
Plucker said some counties are already developing their own regulatory requirements ahead of the state in anticipation of hemp becoming an agricultural commodity, however, other counties are putting moratoriums in place until the state moves forward with regulations.
Colusa County Agricultural Commissioner Greg Hinton said counties are looking at moratoriums largely because “they don’t want to be the first” to begin regulating hemp production when the market is still uncertain. ■