Could hemp become the new crop for Plumas County?

Farmers or ranchers in Plumas County can now raise industrial hemp without all the red tape it required in 2018.

In an early December meeting of the Plumas County Board of Supervisors, local Agriculture Commissioner Tim Gibson told supervisors that it looked like congress was going to pass a new $867 billion farm bill that included approval to grow industrial hemp.

This would decriminalize growing hemp, something that was illegal in many states. California was an exception, but counties, such as Plumas could impose its own requirements.

Gibson told Supervisors that the fee to grow hemp is about $900 a year and the county would get part of that revenue.

President Trump signed the farm bill later that month. Among other things, the bill reclassified hemp as an agricultural product at the federal level. This ruling makes it possible to move the product across state lines and makes it available for crop insurance.

Hemp is cannabis. The key difference between hemp and marijuana is that hemp cannot contain more than 0.3 percent of the tetrahydrocannebinol (THC) or that part that produces a high.

For various reasons, Plumas County Supervisors determined that not just anyone could grow industrial hemp. Those aspiring to grow hemp had to show their project was linked to a legitimate research institution.

And detectives assigned to the Sheriff’s Office cannabis task force to track down illegal marijuana and hemp grows, pointed out there’s no way to visually determine the difference between a marijuana grow and a hemp plantation. There are differences among hemp plants and the many varieties of marijuana, but they’re not readily apparent, according to growers.

One Indian Valley rancher learned the hard way that supervisors were serious about following the rules put in place for growing industrial hemp in Plumas County. Harry Rogers was fined approximately $27,000 for growing hemp and not being able to satisfy the hearing officer’s requirements concerning those demands.

Hemp

In 2014 the federal government under the Agricultural Act of 2014 made it legal to grow what’s termed industrial hemp for research purposes in states where growth and cultivation are legal.

By 2017, 40 states removed barriers for producing industrial hemp for research purposes. California is one of those states.

Historically, industrial hemp was grown to produce fiber. During World War II, U.S. farmers were encouraged to grow hemp to supply the country’s needs when the Japanese cut off supplies.

Today’s industrial hemp uses go far beyond those of earlier production. Hemp is now used as food (hemp nuts); additions to foods; for use in clothing, paper, biofuels, bioplastics, dietary supplements, cosmetics;  and a major source of oil  used in more than 25,000 different applications, according to the web site The Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana.

Industrial hemp plants now cultivated are primarily raised for their oil and cannabinoids or CBDs. Industrial hemp does not produce the levels of THC or tetrahydrocannebinol traditionally found in marijuana that produces the high or psychoactive effect. Legal industrial hemp must have less than 0.03 percent of THC, Strom pointed out in the hearing.

Both hemp and marijuana are members of the cannabis sativa family.

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