County to Consider Hemp Urgency Ordinance to Close Loopholes

Author: Administrative Office
Date: 6/18/2018 5:17 PM

The rules up for consideration are expected to close a gap between current County, State, and Federal regulations.

Update on 6/20/18: 

The County Board of Supervisors decided against adopting an urgency ordinance banning industrial hemp in the unincorporated areas of San Luis Obispo County. 

Original Story on 6/18/18:

The County Board of Supervisors will hold a hearing on Tuesday, June 19 to consider an industrial hemp urgency ordinance that would temporarily ban industrial hemp grows in all unincorporated areas of San Luis Obispo County, with certain exemptions. These new rules are expected to close a gap between current County, State, and Federal regulations.

The proposed urgency ordinance will allow for cultivation of hemp for research purposes under specified conditions by public entities, private entities growing hemp instead of cannabis under a valid cannabis cultivation land use permit, and private parties affiliated with public entities, such as universities.

Giving away or selling the products of such cultivation will be prohibited under the proposed ordinance to avoid any confusion about whether the hemp is being cultivated for research or commercial purposes.

If adopted, the ordinance will be in effect for 45 days with potential extension(s) for two years. An extension is tentatively scheduled to be brought to the Board on July 17. If extended, the urgency ordinance will likely be in effect until the State develops the industrial hemp rules needed to allow counties to register commercial hemp growers, according to State law.

Although there are currently few restrictions on the cultivation of industrial hemp from local County land use regulations, there are still a wide variety of restrictions in place due to Federal and California State law.

Currently, agriculturalists who want to cultivate hemp for commercial purposes cannot obtain the necessary permits to plant and grow hemp. However, state law currently allows the cultivation of industrial hemp for research purposes by “Established Agricultural Research Institutions.”

Illegal cannabis cultivators may attempt to allege they are growing industrial hemp as an “Established Agricultural Research Institution” in an effort to avoid or delay State or local enforcement efforts. County staff is not aware of any legitimate college or university located in unincorporated areas of San Luis Obispo County which actively maintains land or facilities for agricultural research, besides Cal Poly and Cuesta College.

The Board of Supervisors adopted cannabis land use regulations in November 2017 and directed the Department of Planning and Building to return periodically for updates regarding implementation. On June 19, in the department’s second update on the implementation of the Cannabis Program, staff will recommend a number of clarifications to existing cannabis regulations. The first program update was given on February 20, 2018, in conjunction with the Department’s report on Board directed projects (Priorities Report). The Department also included statistics on cannabis land use permitting as part of the May 15, 2018, FY 2017-18 Third Quarter Financial Status Report.