Colusa County officials are considering establishing an ordinance to allow the cultivation of industrial hemp starting this year. 

The federal government removed hemp from its list of prohibited Schedule I drugs with the passing of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018. However, the county had an ordinance on the books prohibiting the cultivation of cannabis and hemp.

Earlier this month, supervisors held a public hearing and first reading of an ordinance amendment to allow for industrial hemp operations. They will look to make the amendment official at next week’s meeting, where a second reading for the ordinance will be read before officials take a vote.

“The ordinance basically sets forth a variety of standards (for growing industrial hemp),” said Greg Plucker, director of the county’s Community Development Department. “It includes some setback requirements, as well as other requirements for permitting and licensing from the Community Development and Ag Commissioner’s office. The Ag Commissioner’s office will really handle the bulk of processing. They will follow state law when it comes to things like testing, inspection and a whole host of other state regulations that have been put in place to govern cultivation.”

Supervisors appointed an ad hoc committee to look into the hemp industry and whether or not it would be a fit for the county. Plucker said the group visited several cultivation sites nearby and met with interested parties to solicit as much information from the public and industry as possible before drawing up the ordinance amendment. 

Some of the most notable requirements regarding the proposed amendment would require cultivators to abide by setback requirements from surrounding homes and communities, as well as security requirements.

If the amendment were to be approved, the county would roll out the new program slowly, only allowing a maximum of 20 industrial hemp licenses or licenses totaling no more than 3,000 acres in its first year.

“Because this is very new, we are implementing this cautiously and conservatively, though we did want to provide an opportunity and to see what works in the county,” Plucker said. “…We anticipate there will be some lessons learned throughout this process. We want to make sure it works for local ag businesses that are interested but also make sure we are protecting existing residents from particular nuisances. So, after the first season, probably around October or November, we will go back in front of the board to talk about some of the lessons we learned.”

The county is currently accepting industrial hemp license applications through Jan. 21 at 5 p.m. from those interested in potentially cultivating hemp in the county, should the board approve the amendment. Once the current application window closes, the county will evaluate the applications for total number of applications and total amount of acreage. If there is still an opportunity for more licenses or acreage following that evaluation, the county could potentially open up the application period a second time.

Those interested in applying for a license can find more information by visiting https://bit.ly/2FQG9yA. 

The Colusa County Board of Supervisors will decide on the ordinance change during their next meeting on Jan. 21, which is scheduled for 9 a.m. inside the Board Chambers – 546 Jay Street, Suite 108, Colusa. 

Locally, Yuba County currently has a moratorium prohibiting the cultivation of hemp. Sutter County does not have an ordinance regarding hemp cultivation but county officials have allowed for industrial hemp to grow within its boundaries as it is considered an allowable agricultural commodity by the federal government.

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