What is industrial hemp?
"Industrial hemp" or “hemp” is an agricultural product that is defined as any part of the Cannabis sativa L. plant, including the seeds of the plant and all derivatives, extracts, the resin extracted from any part of the plant, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of no more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis. Hemp has been excluded from the definition of marijuana at the federal level, and is no longer regulated as a controlled substance.
Can I legally grow industrial hemp in Contra Costa County?
Yes, if you meet all county, state, and federal requirements. On July 27, 2021, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors voted to approve Ordinance No. 2021-21, which addresses land use and zoning under the Department of Conservation and Development. On August 3, 2021, the Board approved Ordinance No. 2021-22, which addresses cultivation requirements under the Department of Agriculture (County Agricultural Commissioner). All county requirements are in addition to those established by state and federal laws and regulations.
Persons wishing to cultivate industrial hemp in Contra Costa County must first obtain a land use permit from the Department of Conservation and Development and a California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) registration through our office prior to applying for the local agricultural permit. Applicants must possess a land use permit from the Department of Conservation and Development, a CDFA registration, and a permit from the Department of Agriculture prior to cultivation.
Department of Conservation and Development’s requirements:
- Obtain a CEQA environmental review
- Provide a site plan identifying location, dimensions, and boundaries of proposed cultivation areas
- Provide an operating plan that includes an odor control plan, a security plan that establishes how the site will be secured against theft and trespass, and details regarding how the cultivation and handling of hemp will be secured to prevent theft and trespass
The cultivation site must meet the following criteria:
- Cultivation site must be zoned for agriculture (A-2, A-3, A-4, A-20, A-40, A-80)
- Site location must fall within the boundaries of the East Contra Costa Irrigation District, Byron-Bethany Irrigation District, or the East Contra Costa Groundwater Sub-basin
- Cultivation site must be at least one mile from the urban limit line if outdoors (including hoop houses)
- Lot size must be at least five acres
- Setback requirements:
- Indoor/greenhouse: structure must comply with all requirements relating to yards that generally apply to structures in that zone
- Outdoor/hoop house: cultivation area shall be set back at least 25 feet from any boundary line, and at least 250 feet from any boundary line that abuts a residential land use district
- Use of onsite generators is prohibited, except in an emergency
- Lighting must be fully shielded, downward casting, and not spill onto other structures, other properties, or the night sky. Light shall not escape at a level that is visible from neighboring properties between sunset and sunrise
- Odor from indoor or greenhouse cultivation must not be detected offsite
- All fees must be paid and all deposits made prior to permit issuance
Department of Agriculture’s requirements:
Applicants must meet the following criteria:
- Only female propagative material may be planted outdoors and regular inspections for males must be conducted
- Male plants may only be cultivated in a building or greenhouse (hoop houses are prohibited)
- Sale or transfer of nursery stock is prohibited
- Agricultural Commissioner must be notified of removal of plants from the site prior to removal
- Signs must be posted indicating that the premises is a hemp cultivation site
- Established agricultural research institutions are limited to one acre
- Theft or vandalism must be reported to the sheriff’s office within 24 hours and to the Agricultural Commissioner within five days
- All fees must be paid prior to registration issuance
If you have additional questions on growing industrial hemp in Contra Costa County, please contact the Department of Conservation and Development and our office for more information.