County approves 45-day hemp moratorium

Although some members of the board were hesitant, due to the probability that it could dissuade any future business or academic programs, the Lassen County Board of Supervisors approved a temporary 45-day moratorium on the cultivation of industrial hemp in the county.

In a 4 to 1 vote Tuesday, March 12, board chairman Jeff Hemphill voting against, the supervisors hesitantly approved the moratorium, but noted it would inhibit the cultivation of the product while the state figures out its regulations and requirements.

Those in favor of the temporary moratorium noted the temporary hiatus would allow for various state and federal organizations to come up with their regulations before any growing could happen in Lassen County.

“We need this ordinance. We would be foolish to move forward without knowing what CDFA is going to do. Without knowing what all the California legislature is going to do. Without knowing what USDA is going to do. All we’re doing is we’re … setting people up for failure,” said Supervisor Aaron Albaugh. “Let’s not be the guinea pigs on this … I think hemp has a good place in Lassen County … but let’s do it right.”

County staff also mentioned it was difficult to determine the difference between hemp and cannabis plants without sending it off for testing.

Others on the board, however, expressed concern a moratorium could be an act that scares any potential industrial hemp growers away from the county.

“We’ve got something that can make the county money, which we desperately need and we’re putting the breaks on it,” said Hemphill.

He later added, “My problem is not the ordinance, it’s the message we’re sending out on this.”

Supervisor David Teeter noted his agreement for the temporary moratorium while details are fleshed out, but said this was an opportunity for the county to bring in more private sector jobs.

“I would go forward with this moratorium … but we’re running out of time, and every time we say no now to private employment in Lassen County, it’s that much sooner that we’re going to die,” said Teeter.

Chris Gallagher noted the moratorium would be back before the board in May, roughly around the start of growing season, and said some of the regulations should be out by then. “I think that’s a reasonable time frame,” the supervisor noted.

Supervisor Tom Hammond shared his question of whether the moratorium could hurt some academic partnerships — where universities work with ranchers to grow hemp — but noted he was in favor of the moratorium as long as the matter was brought back before the board as soon as it could be.

According to county staff, the cultivation of industrial hemp is already not allowed until county code Title 19, this moratorium is just extra assurance regarding land uses.

Under the ordinance, the cultivation of commercial hemp is prohibited in Lassen County until the Industrial Hemp Advisory Board has developed and implemented the requisite industrial hemp seed law, regulations or enforcement mechanisms.”

The board ultimately approved the urgency ordinance, which enacted the temporary 45-day moratorium. It will come back to the board at a later meeting for review.