The Bakersfield Californian

Arvin seeks to ben­e­fit from rules

- BY SAM MORGEN smor­gen@bak­ers­field.com Business · Marijuana · Marijuana Legalization · Narcotic Drugs · Society · Kern County · Sumner, California · Ridgecrest, CA · Twitter · Arvin, CA · RAND Corporation · Cerro Coso Community College · Planning commission of India

Af­ter the Kern County Sher­iff’s Of­fice de­stroyed 459 acres of hemp plants near Arvin they said was ac­tu­ally $1 bil­lion worth of mar­i­juana, city of­fi­cials took note.

They got to work writ­ing an or­di­nance that would al­low for the type of ac­tiv­ity present on the farm­land the Sher­iff’s Of­fice raided in Oc­to­ber. The or­di­nance will be pre­sented be­fore the city’s plan­ning com­mis­sion to­day and is rec­om­mended for ap­proval by the city coun­cil the next day.

Thirty days af­ter the sec­ond read­ing of the coun­cil’s vote, the or­di­nance could come into ef­fect. The city says it has al­ready re­ceived in­ter­est from grow­ers in the hemp in­dus­try, in­clud­ing Apothio LLC, the re­searcher who op­er­ated the farm­land near Arvin that was raided.

If the plan­ning com­mis­sion and city coun­cil ap­prove the or­di­nance, Apothio could be back up and run­ning in Kern County even as the com­pany pushes a law­suit against lo­cal of­fi­cials through the fed­eral court sys­tem.

De­spite the dis­rup­tion, the city hopes to profit.

“When the county came in and (raided Apothio), we did look at that as an op­por­tu­nity,” said Pawan Gill, di­rec­tor of ad­min­is­tra­tive ser­vices. “We’re small, we’re out there, we’re not off the 99 and we don’t have a lot of the things that other cities can of­fer an in­dus­try. So hemp is a unique op­por­tu­nity for us as an eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment tool to re­ally be able to at­tract an in­dus­try.”

Hemp is a non-psy­choac­tive strain of cannabis and is used for a va­ri­ety of pur­poses, from bio­fuel to tex­tiles. Fed­eral reg­u­la­tions al­low for the cul­ti­va­tion of hemp if plants con­tain less than 0.3 per­cent THC, the sub­stance in mar­i­juana that acts on the brain to get peo­ple high.

How­ever, grow­ers say THC lev­els in in­dus­trial hemp can rise and fall as the crop de­vel­ops, lead­ing some plants to test above the le­gal lim­its at early stages of their life cy­cle be­fore fall­ing be­low be­fore they’re har­vested.

Arvin’s or­di­nance would al­low those clas­si­fied as hemp re­searchers to grow hemp that tests above the fed­eral limit.

In its de­fense against the Sher­iff’s Of­fice’s ac­tions, Apothio says it is a li­censed re­searcher work­ing through the RAND Cor­po­ra­tion, Cerro Coso Com­mu­nity Col­lege in Ridge­crest and the Kern Com­mu­nity Col­lege Dis­trict.

The pro­posed or­di­nance specif­i­cally carves out a niche for hemp re­searchers to op­er­ate, pro­vided they reg­is­ter with the city.

And even if the plants test higher than al­lowed un­der the fed­eral hemp reg­u­la­tions, Arvin City Man­ager Jerry Breck­in­ridge says the city’s cannabis or­di­nance would al­low the prod­uct to be sold mar­i­juana.

“That was the is­sue in the county. If they had a plant that tested hot, the county does not have a cannabis or­di­nance,” he said. “There was no mech­a­nism to trans­fer that plant to the other side.”

Whereas Arvin, which has ap­proved an or­di­nance for the cul­ti­va­tion of mar­i­juana, does have pro­vi­sions in its or­di­nance to con­vert the prod­uct to cannabis.

The city plans to earn rev­enue from hemp pro­duc­tion through de­vel­op­ment agree­ments with com­pa­nies that set up shop in Arvin. The agree­ments would al­low Arvin to earn a per­cent­age off the rev­enues the com­pa­nies make through their busi­ness.

While the city has yet to see a wind­fall from its cannabis or­di­nance, sev­eral com­pa­nies are work­ing their way through the reg­u­la­tory red tape, and of­fi­cials hope to see prof­its rel­a­tively soon.

Breck­in­ridge said fed­eral law al­lows com­pa­nies to grow hemp within Arvin city lim­its, but the new or­di­nance gives the city more con­trol and of­fers a way for res­i­dents to ben­e­fit.

“Re­al­is­ti­cally, any­one can come into our city right now and start grow­ing hemp, and we would have no con­trol over it,” he said. “The city started to look at ways to not only reg­u­late it, but ben­e­fit from it.”

The Plan­ning Com­mis­sion will con­duct its meet­ing via tele­con­fer­ence on Monday. Pub­lic com­ments may be emailed to cvela@ arvin.org.

You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415. You may also fol­low him on Twit­ter @smor­genTBC.

 ?? ALEX HORVATH / THE CAL­I­FOR­NIAN ?? A hemp plant is seen grow­ing near Arvin in Septem­ber. The Kern County Sher­iff’s De­part­ment de­stroyed the farm a month later.
ALEX HORVATH / THE CAL­I­FOR­NIAN A hemp plant is seen grow­ing near Arvin in Septem­ber. The Kern County Sher­iff’s De­part­ment de­stroyed the farm a month later.

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