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Supes approve limited hemp cultivation ordinance

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved an ordinance that regulates and restricts industrial hemp cultivation in unincorporated areas of the county.

The ordinance recognizes agricultural crop production is a use allowed by right in many zoning districts but it prohibits cultivation of industrial hemp in rural residential zoning areas.

It allows cultivation in agricultural and residential zoning with mandatory setbacks of 600 feet from occupied structures and 200 feet from property lines, which could be waived by neighbors.

Hemp cultivation will be allowed in some zoning but with a prohibition on tree removal and grading, and all industrial hemp cultivation will require registration.

Hemp farmers also are required to manage pollen drift from male industrial hemp plants and undertake special enforcement provisions to ensure the hemp growing is not used to hide unpermitted cannabis cultivation.

The Board of Supervisors approved a moratorium on industrial hemp cultivation in the county on April 2, 2019, after the county’s Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures said it poses a risk to legal cannabis cultivation in the county.

Unregulated cultivation of industrial hemp would present a potential for unintended pollination of cannabis plants if the hemp is being grown for seed, the department said.

Industrial hemp is a cannabis plant grown for fiber, which is used to make rope, strong fabrics, paper, clothing, shoes and other products. It does not contain the psychoactive compound THC found in cannabis plants.

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