By Keli Moore
The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to enact a temporary moratorium on industrial hemp production in San Luis Obispo County.
Hemp is a varietal of the cannabis plant but unlike marijuana, cannot get you high. Hemp is approved at both the state and federal level.
Supervisors said Tuesday that they want to take a closer look at how to mitigate concerns before issuing any new ag permits to grow hemp in the county.
While hemp looks a lot like marijuana, the plants are purposely grown to eliminate the THC levels, that’s the psychoactive component that can induce euphoric effects on a user.
Frank Brown has been growing hemp locally to produce CBD for the last three years.
“We aren’t growing psychoactive materials. We have less than .3% THC. Over the years, it’s been found that CBD in the plant has the health benefits,” he explained as a KSBY reporter toured his farm. “It’s the THC that makes people smile and sit around eating potato chips.”
Brown said CBD is a non-intoxicating product that has been shown to provide pain relief, anti-inflammatory effects and other medical benefits.
He was hoping supervisors would create an advisory board rather than enact a moratorium.
“I’m not pissed, I’m disappointed,” Brown said. “We already had our growing operations registered and permitted, but we have a lot friends and growing partners and investors who are going to back away. They are going to walk out of this county.”
Despite overwhelming opposition to the moratorium during public comment Tuesday, there was one person who expressed concern about area farmers growing hemp due to its potential skunk-like smell. Supervisors voted 4-1 to enact the moratorium with Bruce Gibson casting the only dissenting vote.
“It was tough because we don’t want to send the message, at least I don’t, that we don’t want the business. We just have to do it without some of the impacts that we’re seeing,” said San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill. “There’s definitely been a lot of tension around cannabis and hemp. I mean, they’re different plants from the same kind of plants but there are some things that they share in common including odor issues and with hemp, there’s some pollination issues that can be affected. We just need to hear from people that are in the industries that already have established practices here so we don’t have conflicts. I’m certainly not opposed to what they’re trying to do, I just want to address the concerns of Edna Valley.”
County staff was directed to come up with an advisory board and more information about farming hemp during Tuesday’s meeting.
The temporary moratorium will come before supervisors again in 45 days for a possible extension.
Both the Farm Bureau of San Luis Obispo County and the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business urged supervisors not to adopt Tuesday’s moratorium, saying it would hurt farming in the county.
“Potentially in this county, we could have had $200 million of cash flow around this new industry in our county alone,” Brown said.