The Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved an agreement with the state to designate the Riverside County agricultural commissioner’s office as the regulatory authority overseeing hemp producers countywide.

The agreement with the California Department of Food & Agriculture was approved in a 3-0 vote — with Supervisors Manuel Perez and Chuck Washington absent — and will be retroactive to July 1, expiring on June 30, 2020.

According to the contract terms, country agricultural inspectors will 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 will follow guidelines provided by the California Crop Improvement Association at UC Davis, conducting field inspections, confirming hemp seed is transported and stored appropriately, the agreement states.

Tags and seals will 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 on cultivation of all marijuana derivatives, including hemp, in unincorporated communities 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 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.

Opponents who have appeared before the board contend that hemp has dubious value compared to other agricultural resources, and crops will further draw down water supplies.

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