Ventura County Board of Supervisors addressed the local concern regarding hemp cultivation


District 3 Supervisor Kelly Long addresses the public commenters during the Ventura County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 19 in Moorpark, Calif. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

By Ryan Bough

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors met on Tuesday evening with the main agenda topic revolving around hemp cultivation in Ventura County. The board room was completely full, with people spilling into the hallways, as not everyone could fit.

During public comments on industrial hemp cultivation there were 47 speakers cards, most of which revolved around the odor produced by the hemp. The board itself was not able to take any action to regulate hemp cultivation or ban it, the board could only provide direction to staff. The board directed staff to bring back a proposal on measures to mitigate the odor.

Industrial hemp is normally a three to four month crop that looks and smells similar to marijuana but hemp has a much lower THC level than marijuana. Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner Ed Williams explained that the THC levels in marijuana could be from 5% to 25% but in industrial hemp, the THC level cannot exceed 0.3%.

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Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner Ed Williams speaks about the possible benefits hemp may supply for the community and the possible mitigation options during the VC Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 19. According to Williams, the Agricultural Counsel will be overseeing research on the possible damage of flowering hemp odor. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

Ventura County is one of the top five counties in California for growing hemp with 3,600 acres planted. Williams reported that there are 110 registered hemp sites in Ventura county, two of which will be destroyed for failing to meet the 0.3% or lower THC requirement.

In answering a question from a board member, Williams elaborated on how the fields are destroyed.

“The farmer has to develop a destruction plan which my office approves. Generally speaking, it’s going to be plowing it into the soil,” stated Williams.

Victor Fazio, Chief of Police for Moorpark addressed the increase in crime from the hemp fields, as many people mistake the hemp fields for marijuana fields.

“These statistics are concerning to me and the sheriff’s office on several fronts. One, we now have an environment where criminals are traveling great distances to offend in our county,” said Fazio. “The calls for service related to hemp are taking away from valuable patrol time, not to mention adding to investigative follow up time that could be better spent on proactive police work.”

The sheriff’s office asked the board to consider tighter security regulations such as signs, fences or other theft deterrent requirements be placed on the hemp growers.

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Chris Massa, hemp farmer in Oxnard, voices his perspective as a grower during public comments at the Ventura County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 19. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

Chris Massa, a small scale hemp grower, attended the meeting to hear the residents perspective on the hemp fields. Massa explained why he decided to speak during the public comments.

“They [the residents] are looking at farmers, who are trying to make a living, as the enemy, and so that’s why I was trying to bridge that gap and say ‘Hey, we are all a part of this community, we’re not trying to offend you, its legal what we are doing, so let’s work together,’” said Massa.

Many of the comments from the public, however, were made regarding the odor produced by the hemp. Sean Segal is one of the many residents who voiced concerns to the board.

“There has to be a balance between farming and community rights because right now they are infringing upon our rights to have a house that we can enjoy that is odor free,” expressed Segal. “I don’t necessarily fault the farmer, I fault the Board of Supervisors for not doing their job and their due diligence.”

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Moorpark community member Sean Segal expressed his discontent with the odor of hemp present in parts of Moorpark. Segal and many other residents appeared to voice their concerns during public comments at the Ventura County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 19. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

According to Agricultural Commissioner Williams, the odor can induce headaches in some people while others may experience an allergic reaction to the pollen. But Williams states that in Ventura County there is very little pollen being produced in the hemp crops because it is not good for production of CBD oil also known as Cannabidiol.

Most hemp grown in Ventura County is for the production of CBD oils. According to the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute, CBD shows anti-tumor effects in different aggressive cancers during studies.

Hemp can also can be used in the production of Hempcrete, which is a bio-composite building material made from the hemp and a lime-based binder. The hemp fibers also have a wide range of industrial and commercial uses such as rope, clothing and other accessories.

During the public comments, mayors from multiple towns spoke to the board including Moorpark Mayor Janice Parvin.

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Moorpark Mayor Janice Parvin, left, and City Manager Troy Brown share a private chat during the public comments on the issue of hemp odor. Parvin and Brown both made public comments supporting actions to limit hemp growth in the area. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

Parvin spoke about how she had heard from over 50 residents regarding the odor from the hemp fields, she immediately contacted the agricultural commissioner to set up a meeting in which she was able to obtain more detailed information.

“If it’s affecting my residents, it’s not in my jurisdiction but it’s my problem,” said Parvin. “I think they are trying to find a balance and I think our residents are very open-minded and they are not trying to stop it, they are just trying to have good air to breathe.”

The Board of Supervisors heard the residents concerns and will attempt to re-address this issue before the next growing season.