Sonoma County supervisors Monday took a critical step that signals they will lift a ban on hemp cultivation that would allow farmers to plant the first commercial crop in the county later this year, a decision made over objections from residents concerned about the plant’s similarity to cannabis.
Supervisors unanimously agreed the county should treat hemp like any other crop: allow it to be grown on properties zoned for agricultural uses with light regulation akin to other types of farming and less strict than the long list of rules governing cannabis.
Hemp doesn’t get people high and growing it is legal in the U.S., which explains why supervisors don’t plan the rigorous guidelines for the crop that are in place for cannabis — a plant still illegal under federal law.
The rules for hemp would include setbacks from property lines and occupied homes to lessen the effect of hemp and its odor on neighbors, while preserving the right to farm on agricultural properties affirmed by state and local laws.
Board members largely concurred with county Agricultural Commissioner Tony Linegar, who cautioned the board against creating rules for hemp they wouldn’t put on traditional farming. Linegar offered a blunt assessment of how overly strict regulations for farming hemp, urged in large part by those who oppose cannabis, could hinder the ability of all local farmers to grow hemp as a way to diversify their crop production.
“We shouldn’t start laying different criteria on the growing of hemp that we wouldn’t put on broccoli,” Supervisor David Rabbitt said.
Published: January 07, 2020
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News