Hemp, which has recently been legalized for commercial production, is expected to be a big factor in Ventura County’s agricultural industry.
Juan Carlo, VC Star
Hemp cultivation has become the subject of fierce debate within the city of Camarillo, one where the tension is so palpable you can almost feel it — or at least smell it.
Earlier in the month, the City Council voted against an interim urgency moratorium on the cultivation of industrial hemp within city limits. However, the topic continued to be a subject of debate, and the issue was added to the City Council agenda as a general item.
For 2½ hours Wednesday night, local leaders learned about hemp cultivation, heard comments from the public and discussed how to move forward.
David Moe, assistant director of community development, led a presentation overview on the topic. The presentation offered ideas of how the city could introduce hemp into the local economy as well as ways to regulate it, such as introducing buffer zones that would prohibit hemp cultivation within a certain radius.
The presentation also included a map taken from Google Earth satellite imagery that outlined the spread and number of nearby hemp fields. Only one field, measuring 18 acres, was within Camarillo city limits and thus under the jurisdiction of the Camarillo City Council. The rest are in unincorporated areas.
Members of the public share their thoughtsBuy Photo
Martin Mota clears grass between rows of industrial hemp plants at McGrath Family Farms in Camarillo. (Photo: JUAN CARLO/THE STAR)
Nearly a dozen members of the public spoke during the meeting, many sharing negative feelings about the smell that hemp has caused in the area.
“The odor doesn’t go away. It goes inside your home, and it’s really obnoxious,” said Camarillo resident Alfredo Melendez.
Councilwoman Charlotte Craven echoed the sentiment, saying she had personally received many complaints about the issue.
“I think we have a big problem, and that problem is odor of ripe industrial hemp,” she said.
She added that complaints had come from people living both near and far from the hemp fields, thanks to the ocean breeze and Santa Ana winds.
“Wherever they’re coming from, we’re getting it, and it doesn’t take a huge amount of acreage to create an odor that is offensive enough to make people lose the enjoyable use of their property,” Craven said.
What did council members have to say?Buy Photo
Councilmember Shawn Mulchay (Photo: JUAN CARLO/THE STAR)
Council members Shawn Mulchay and Susan Santangelo both agreed it was worth looking into ways to regulate hemp cultivation to reduce the odor but stood by their decisions to reject the earlier urgency moratorium.
“It would be as effective as placing a moratorium on the wind; it’s just not going to do anything,” Mulchay said.
Vice Mayor Tony Trembley disagreed, arguing the moratorium ordinance would work more as a symbolic gesture than a tangible fix to the problem.
“Unless we enact our own moratorium, I think we would have a hard time going to the county Board of Supervisors and saying you should do the same thing,” Trembley said.
Craven asked city attorney Brian Pierik if passing a regular ordinance would serve the same function as an urgency ordinance. Pierik said an urgency ordinance needed a four-fifths vote to pass but an ordinance passed in the regular fashion only needed a majority vote in favor. The ordinance would need to go through first and second readings before passage, and it would take 30 days to go into effect.
Ultimately, the council unanimously agreed more research was needed. Mayor Kevin Kildee said the top priority should be getting in contact with the county Board of Supervisors, along with researching possible regulations for hemp cultivation, whetherthey take the form of a moratorium ordinance or mitigation efforts such as buffer zones.
“We need to partner with the county here to try and get some sort of an ordinance here that we can limit the impact,” Kildee said.
The rest of the discussion involved whether the city would want to add cannabis research and development sites and processing plants, as well as regulate cannabis delivery services. The council said more research was needed on both issues but leaned in favor of all topics.
Jeremy Childs is a breaking news and public safety reporter covering the night shift for the Ventura County Star. He can be reached by calling 805-437-0208 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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