Arizona hemp growing season kicks off amid marijuana industry’s cross-pollination concerns

Farmers in Arizona will start planting legal hemp crops Friday, as the 2019 season officially gets underway under a set of rules established by the state’s agriculture department.

The season is starting two months earlier than planned, thanks to legislation signed into law in February by Gov. Doug Ducey.

But while Arizona’s hemp farmers are cheering the start of the season, the road to getting here hasn’t come without controversy.

Marijuana growers worried that restrictions lifted on growing hemp would cause pollen from hemp plants to pollinate their plants and render them worthless.

Influenced by up-in-arms marijuana farmers, leaders in the town of Snowflake passed a rule requiring a buffer between the crops.

In April, farmers in Santa Cruz County tried to convince officials in neighboring Pima County that the hemp crops produced there would affect Santa Cruz’s medical marijuana harvest.

The farmers asked that a zoning ordinance be enacted to create a 10-mile buffer around marijuana farms to prevent cross-pollination. Their request was denied, the Arizona Republic reported.

In creating rules for the state’s hemp program, the Arizona Department of Agriculture listened to concerns from marijuana stakeholders but decided not to create an official buffer.

Instead, the agency expects the hemp and marijuana industries to work out their differences without official rules, said Brian McGrew, the state’s industrial hemp program manager.

“Efforts are underway with various trade associations to develop and maintain a pinning map to help potential farmers determine proximity risks for their operations,” McGrew told the Republic.

Similar challenges are occurring in California, where nearly half the state’s counties are participating in moratoriums to block hemp production and some are being influenced by outdoor marijuana producers as well.

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