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Industrial hemp allowed to stay in San Luis Obispo County

Tara Jones/Flickr
The difference between herbal cannabis and industrial hemp crops was discussed at length at the San Luis Obispo Board of Supervisers meeting Tuesday

Hemp production won’t be banned in San Luis Obispo County. The Board of Supervisors had been considering an urgency ordinance that would put a moratorium on industrial hemp.

Megan Rose Dutra was just one of many hemp growers and advocates who spoke to the Board of Supervisors this week.

“I think the most notable thing is how little seems to be known on the bureaucratic end about hemp,” Dutra said. “CBD versus cannabis. And that seems like the biggest bit of information you guys need to make these decisions. The separation of the two needs to be distinct and swift.”

The distinction can be a little confusing. Cannabis the drug and industrial hemp both come from the species cannabis sativa. They both have the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is known for causing the high people feel when they take cannabis as a drug. But the two plants are not the same. Hemp has much lower THC levels and more cannabidiol (CBD), which counteracts the psychoactive effects. And, according to hemp advocates, the plant has a long list of uses: rope, jewelry, animal feed, biofuels and more.

“There’s been a reported 25,000 different products that can come out of industrial hemp” Ted Fitzgerald said. He’s a Cal Poly student who has been lobbying the San Luis Obispo university to pilot a hemp research program. He spoke to KCBX in May.

“Some of the uses [come from] CBD oils.” Fitzgerald said. “All the cosmetics that it can be applied to, like lotion and sunscreen. I have my own shampoo that’s derived from hemp.”

County staff say they proposed the ordinance out of a concern that people might try to illegally grow herbal cannabis posing as a hemp farm. But after three hours of deliberation and testimony Tuesday night, District 3 supervisor Adam Hill said he felt like the county has been unnecessarily hard on the hemp industry.

“We must have resources raining from the sky, in terms of new revenue resources, to treat an industry the way we have treated [the hemp] industry in this county,” Hill said. “Because we do everything we can to make it difficult for anybody to legitimately do anything that involves this plant, despite how many times we hear about its resourcefulness, its usefulness, and its potential.”

For now, San Luis Obispo will continue to follow state laws regarding hemp, only allowing public and private research institutions and licensed cannabis growers to cultivate the plant. Hemp grown for commercial and personal uses is prohibited. Those state laws are expected to change, and even loosen, but when that will happen remains uncertain.

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