HANFORD — An interim urgency ordinance that restricts the cultivation or manufacturing of hemp within Hanford city limits was extended for possibly another 10 months by the Hanford City Council.
In July, council approved the 45-day interim urgency ordinance after city staff received interest in the manufacturing of hemp.
Hemp comes from the cannabis plant, but contains less than .03% of THC — the main psychoactive ingredient found in medical and recreational cannabis products. Hemp is often used to make fibers, clothes, paper, oils and lotions, among other items.
City staff asked council to extend the ordinance another 10 months and 15 days to allow them more time to work on a permanent ordinance to present to council. A public hearing on the issue was held Tuesday night.
Community Development Director Darlene Mata said her department continues to monitor what happens at the county and state level. She said right now they are watching Assembly Bill 228, which if adopted, would clarify what is allowed concerning hemp product manufacturing.
She said the bill still needs to be passed by both the Senate and Assembly, and it would be good to have approved state law to follow as a guideline.
During public comment time, concerns were raised about the 2020 planting season in June. If an ordinance is not in place soon, growers would not have enough time to look for seed, plant, process and test.
This was a concern for Vice Mayor John Draxler, who said the ordinance prohibits private property owners from working with hemp.
“I’m just a fan of private enterprise without government intervening to the point where they cannot do their job,” Draxler said, “I’m not convinced that we have that much of a concern.”
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Police Chief Parker Sever said the concern is that the difference cannot be told between a hemp plant and a recreational cannabis plant. Theoretically, he said someone could produce plants with high THC levels and the city would not be able to test it.
“Without that testing taking place, they could very well be selling marijuana,” Sever said, also adding that the hemp plant also creates a strong odor.
Mata said the city should treat hemp similarly to cannabis by testing what is coming in and going out to make sure the product is what it’s supposed to be. She also said there are still a lot of questions surrounding this industry and staff needs time to draft ordinance that they feel comfortable with.
Mata said one option the city could take is to hire an outside company to develop a permanent ordinance in conjunction with the city, similar to what the city did with cannabis. She said hemp companies would pay for the services, with no guarantee that they would get a permit or anything in return.
Council was receptive to the idea and Mata said any adopted permanent ordinance would supersede the current interim ordinance.
However, Mata said it would still take time for the ordinance to go through planning commission and then be adopted by council.
Ultimately, council voted unanimously to extend the interim urgency ordinance and gave consensus to Mata to see if hemp companies would be willing to pay for a consultant to streamline the process.
After the 10 months and 15 days, council has the option to extend the interim ordinance another 12 months.