Aerial photo of illegal marijuana grow
Aerial photo of the illegal marijuana grow. Courtesy Riverside Police

Riverside County supervisors Friday are mulling over an agreement with the state to designate the county Office of the Agricultural Commissioner as the regulatory authority overseeing hemp producers countywide.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to approve the agreement with the California Department of Food & Agriculture as part of their Tuesday morning agenda. It would be retroactive to July 1 and expire June 30, 2020.

According to the contract terms, country agricultural inspectors would be responsible for certifying the quality of hemp seeds, ensuring that they’re harvested, cleaned and packaged in compliance with standards established under the California Seed Law.

Inspectors would follow guidelines provided by the California Crop Improvement Association at UC Davis, conducting field inspections, confirming that hemp seed is transported and stored appropriately, the agreement states.

Tags and seals would also be scrutinized to verify the packaging process satisfies state requirements.

According to the county Transportation & Land Management Agency, as of June, there were a dozen hemp producers registered with the county.

Until May, the board had mandated a ban in unincorporated communities on cultivation of all marijuana derivatives, including hemp, to give TLMA time to structure the county’s comprehensive cannabis regulatory framework. However, when the board voted to reapply the hemp restrictions in June, Supervisors Jeff Hewitt and Manuel Perez dissented, causing the proposed ban to fail.

Hewitt noted that “hemp is a commercial substance that … is available to people farming their lands,” and the county should not stand in the way of potential enterprises that the state and federal governments have not outlawed.

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.

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