10 Oct Camarillo City Council rejects industrial hemp moratorium in 3-2 vote
By Jeremy Childs
Vanessa Ramirez, vice president of operations of the Ventura Seed Co., talks about the industrial hemp crop growing on 60 acres at McGrath Family Farms in Camarillo. About 4,000 acres of industrial hemp are registered in Ventura County.
The Camarillo City Council rejected a proposed moratorium on industrial hemp cultivation, bucking the trend of hemp bans in other cities in the county. The ordinance, which needed a four-fifths vote to pass, was rejected 3-2 in a council vote during a meeting on Wednesday night. Mayor Kevin Kildee, Vice Mayor Tony Trembley and Councilwoman Charlotte Craven voted in favor of the moratorium, while council members Shawn Mulchay and Susan Santangelo voted against it. The moratorium would have stopped all future industrial hemp cultivation, processing and manufacturing within the city for the next 45 days, with the possibility of an up to two-year extension. It was added to the City Council agenda over odor complaints from residents and public safety concerns. Industrial hemp differs from marijuana primarily in its lower levels of the psychoactive chemical tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC. Hemp contains less that 0.3%, while marijuana potency can be at least 10%, according to the National Institutes of Health. After California legalized recreational cannabis in a 2016 proposition, industrial hemp was banned in Camarillo due to its federal designation as a controlled substance. However, after passage of the Federal Agriculture Improvement Act in 2018, industrial hemp was no longer considered a federally controlled substance and became allowed under zoning regulations. Two other cities in Ventura County have banned hemp within their jurisdictions. Ojai banned all cultivation within city limits, while Thousand Oaks passed a temporary prohibition. Andy Calderwood, the county’s deputy agriculture commissioner and head of its hemp program, said roughly 4,000 acres are registered this year for industrial hemp. Only one field measuring less than 20 acres has industrial hemp within Camarillo city limits. Across from the field, on the other side of Pleasant Valley Road, 270 acres of industrial hemp are growing on unincorporated land under the county’s jurisdiction. The hemp permit for the land expires in May 2020. Santangelo and Mulchay both said the urgency of the moratorium was not warranted due to the relatively small effect it would have on mitigating the odor. “It’s not going to change the smell. It’s right across the street,” Santangelo said. Conversely, Kildee urged his colleagues to take action on the issue while it was still small instead of waiting to deal with it later. “My feeling is that this industry is going to grow by leaps and bounds, and if we wait two years to have a discussion on this, that it’s going to be too late,” Kildee said. Nine people spoke about hemp during the public comment portion of the meeting, two in favor of the moratorium and seven against it. In the end, the ordinance did not pass, and industrial hemp will be allowed within Camarillo city limits for the foreseeable future.