Humboldt County made quite a considerable name for itself in California, and across the U.S. for cannabis enthusiasts, as a mecca for growing and cultivating cannabis in the early days of medical legalization, and even before. Now, the county has made a bold move, permanently banning all outdoor cultivation of low-THC hemp.
Part of California’s infamous Emerald Triangle, Humboldt, and the region of Northern California in general, is the sweet spot for growing outdoor cannabis, one of the best climates in the U.S. for this type of cultivation, recent climate change impact aside.
Cannabis is practically in Humboldt’s DNA, so it should come as no surprise that the reason for banning outdoor hemp cultivation is actually a pro-cannabis one. The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to ban hemp because of the argument that hemp could send male pollen to the higher-THC cannabis, depressing cannabinoid levels.
There has been a temporary ban on hemp growing in Humboldt county since 2018, and now, the local government has officially made it permanent. According to Ross Gordon, who serves as policy director for Humboldt County Grower’s Alliance, this is the right move because of, in his words, the “many risks that industrial hemp poses to the cannabis industry here.”
According to this ruling, only cannabis plants above 0.3 percent THC will be allowed, ironically the exact opposite of what is allowed to be cultivated or sold on a federal level. And, Humboldt isn’t the first county to take this step. Many other California counties do the same thing in order to stop cross pollination, but Humboldt County is the first to write it into local law and make it permanent. There will be exceptions to the ban, including concessions made for hemp researchers affiliated with universities who are not seeking to grow hemp for profit.
Not Everyone Is Thrilled
However, despite this precedent, hemp growers across California were still not happy about the move.
“California is an agricultural state, and why they wouldn’t allow hemp to grow is ludicrous,” said Sandro Piancone, CEO of Hempacco Co. Inc., a company based in San Diego.
In general, this is an issue that impacts hemp and cannabis growers everywhere, as the cross-pollination that can occur from hemp can be bad for THC-containing cannabis. On the other side of the spectrum, there are the age-old arguments that recreational cannabis gives the industrial hemp industry a bad name. Moves like this are only helping to increase this tension.
However, Jeff Dolf, Humboldt County Agricultural Commissioner, claims that the area of Humboldt County has received very little interest in hemp growing, especially in comparison to the interest in THC cannabis cultivation. This may be because of the crackdowns recently on hemp products. There is currently a bill in California legislature that would ban smokable hemp and require hemp to get tested the same way THC-containing products get tested in the state.
At least for now, Humboldt County hemp growers are out of luck, and they could have a tough road ahead of them, but local, THC-cannabis growers are rejoicing about the lack of cross-pollination.