Farmersville considers industrial hemp ban

The city, which legalized commercial cannabis, took no action at a recent meeting

Kaitlin Washburn  @kwashy12

FARMERSVILLE – The city of Farmersville is considering banning the cultivation and sale of industrial hemp, which was federally legalized in the 2018 Farm Bill.

The concerns the city has with hemp cultivation are the lack of federal, state and county regulations on the product, possible competition with cannabis and potential dangers of unregulated hemp-based vaping oils.

“Hemp is completely unregulated right now. The 2018 Farm Bill took hemp off the banned substances list and cleared the way for people to use and grow hemp without regulations,” Farmersville Mayor Greg Gomez said.

At an Oct. 28 meeting, city staff presented reasons against industrial hemp to the Farmersville City Council. The council took no action on the item, since there were only three members present, and an emergency ban requires a four out of five vote to pass, Gomez said.

The United States Department of Agriculture released a plan on Oct. 29 for regulating industrial hemp, which is available for public comment until Dec. 30.

Sonny Perdue, the U.S. secretary of agriculture, said in a news release that the department developed a regulatory framework that provides a “fair, consistent and science-based process for states, tribes, and individual producers.”

“At USDA, we are always excited when there are new economic opportunities for our farmers, and we hope the ability to grow hemp will pave the way for new products and markets,” Purdue said in the release.

One reason Farmersville is considering a hemp ban is to wait until the USDA, state and county officially establish their own regulations, Gomez said.

Tom Tucker, Tulare County ag commissioner, said the county placed a 24-month and 15-day moratorium on industrial hemp so that a meaningful and thorough program could be put together.

“We decided we didn’t want to launch into something without any unknown information,” Tucker said. “Several counties didn’t do a moratorium and just went right into cultivation. And they’re having to come to terms with all these conflicts, like no regulations and unclear regulations.”

The California Department of Agriculture has created a set of regulations on industrial hemp, however, it will need to be approved by the USDA once the federal program is official, Tucker said.

Tucker said he hopes to have an ordinance ready for county approval by spring 2020. The ag commissioner’s office will hold an industrial hemp ordinance review on Dec. 12 from 4 to 6 p.m. for people to learn about the county’s plan for the crop.

Jennifer Mendonca, the owner of Farmersville’s first cannabis dispensary, Token Farms, said she isn’t worried about the potential competition with Hemp.

“Hopefully the new regulations from the state will allow fur us to sell hemp as well,” Mendonca said.

Farmersville legalized commercial cannabis grows and sales in November 2017. Gomez said the city doesn’t want to hurt Farmersville’s cannabis industry by legalizing hemp. One downside, he said, is the risk of cross pollination between hemp and cannabis, which could alter the THC levels in the plants.

“I wouldn’t imagine that we’d want to put our cannabis industry at any disadvantage or harm them in any way,” Gomez said.

In Farmersville’s ordinance legalizing commercial cannabis, the city distinguished between cannabis and industrial hemp and treated them as separate products, Gomez said. But the city decided to not make hemp either legal or illegal.

Cannabis is fully regulated from seed to flower, and is tested throughout the process, which is not the case for hemp.

“It’s also tested once it gets to the dispensary, you know exactly how much THC is in what you buy,” Gomez said. “And those regulations aren’t in place with hemp.”

Another concern is vaping products that use CBD oils made from hemp, which aren’t regulated,  Gomez said.

“People have no idea what is in that product, which is dangerous with things like CBD oils used for vaping,” Gomez said.

During their presentation, Gomez said staff mentioned some people are interested in selling hemp, but no one has expressed interest in growing it in Farmersville.

“I see both sides, I’d like to protect our cannabis industry but I don’t want to limit people’s access to CBD products they might need for their well being,” Gomez said.

At a future meeting, the city council will either approve hemp or continue the ban. If they approve the ban, then the ban is in place for 45 days, then it can be pushed to two months and then pushed back two years. It’s possible the city will vote to ban hemp until state and county regulations are set, Gomez said.

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