The Board of Supervisors is slated Tuesday to consider imposing a series of regulations on where and how hemp growers can operate within unincorporated areas of Riverside County.
The proposed Industrial Hemp Cultivation & Manufacturing Ordinance, No. 348.4931, will be the subject of a public hearing toward the end of the board’s regular meeting.
The measure would supersede all prior regulations and establish controls on plot arrangements, including setbacks from public rights-of-way and schools, tied to both indoor and outdoor hemp grows, which are legal countywide but require registration and licensing through the county Office of the Agricultural Commissioner.
A total of three hearings were conducted by the county Planning Commission prior to the proposed ordinance being submitted to the board, which in June 2019 ended all remaining prohibitions on hemp farming in unincorporated communities.
The main difference between hemp and unadulterated marijuana is the tetrahydrocannabinol — or THC — content. Hemp leaves have about three-tenths of 1% of the compounds contained in cannabis leaves, according to the Office of County Counsel.
Advocates of hemp production and research say its properties have proven benefits in treating some skin and heart disorders. It’s also used in clothing and other commercial applications.
Unlike cannabis, hemp is not federally designated as a controlled substance, and production is permitted on Native American lands, under the supervision of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians began permitting hemp grows in the area of Mountain Center in January.
Countywide, there are 110 registered growers, as well as 13 licensed seed breeders, according to the Transportation & Land Management Agency.
The proposed ordinance recognizes that hemp cultivation is heavy on water usage, and for that reason, the measure would specifically prohibit all grows in the Santa Margarita River Watershed, which encompasses all unincorporated space around Temecula and Winchester, along with the communities of Aguanga, Anza and Sage.
“The Santa Margarita River Watershed has a heightened sensitivity related to water usage and water quality, resulting in a greater need to ensure that large-scale ground water extraction is better managed,” according to a TLMA statement posted to the board’s agenda.
Other requirements under the proposed ordinance include:
— indoor and outdoor hemp cultivation must be a minimum of 1,000 feet from all schools, daycare centers, public parks and youth centers;
— indoor hemp grows must be inside fully enclosed spaces and must be a minimum of 25 feet from the nearest adjoining residential or commercial plot line;
— in specifically zoned areas, covering most of the county, outdoor hemp cultivation must be set back 100 feet from an adjoining plot boundary, though a few locations only require a 25-foot setback;
— all indoor cultivation sites must rely on 20% renewable energy for production;
— all indoor and outdoor sites must have water conservation and recapturing mechanisms in place to “minimize use of water where feasible”;
— all sites must receive prior scrutiny by their local water agency to show that they do not pose a risk of excess or wasteful water consumption; and
— all sites must install lighting systems that do not disturb neighbors, or use methods that shield neighboring properties from “light trespass.”
The ordinance further proposes limitations on hours of operation to reduce noise, and hemp production would not be permitted to be co-located with cannabis grows. However, to date, the board has not authorized a single commercial marijuana farm in an unincorporated area.
The total cost of implementing the ordinance in the current fiscal year will be about $10,000, according to TLMA.
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