Maldonado Cleared of Illegal Cannabis Cultivation

San Luis Obispo Investigators '100 Percent Wrong'

Sky’s the limit for hemp.
Photo Credit: Paul Wellman (file)
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California’s former lieutenant governor Abel Maldonado was cleared of illegally growing 30 acres of cannabis on farmland he owns in San Luis Obispo by county officials who determined Maldonado was in fact cultivating industrial hemp. While hemp and cannabis are visually identical, cannabis has higher concentrations of THC, the psychoactive ingredient that gets cannabis users high. Maldonado provided officials with lab results indicating the THC content of his plants fell below the 0.3 percent threshold dividing cannabis from hemp. In addition, Maldonado and his attorneys satisfied county officials they were growing the hemp in conjunction with an agricultural research entity known as Terra Growth.

Maldonado had not sought county permits for hemp production. Under state law, hemp growers are exempt from applying for county permits if they are working with a research institute.

Maldonado issued a statement expressing gratitude that the investigation has been closed. “The county staff member who falsely misrepresented that my industrial hemp crop as something other than hemp was 100 percent wrong,” he said. For all of Maldonado’s indignation about being falsely accused of cannabis cultivation, he is, in fact, growing cannabis on four acres of land in Santa Barbara County.

Maldonado said he’s researching best practices in cultivating hemp, which he says contains significant amounts of CBDs, the non-intoxicating compounds long associated with marijuana’s medicinal properties. Maldonado said Karcey helped initiate various hemp research projects with the University of Kentucky. Maldonado is growing the hemp on his own farm operation ​— ​Runway Farms ​— ​and not Agro-Jal, the family farming enterprise with which he was long associated.

Maldonado said he hopes to have 200 acres growing hemp, which he predicted could save America’s farm economy. The new farm bill, which Congress is expected to pass in the next two weeks, contains language taking hemp off the controlled substance list. “That’s huge,” Maldonado said. Hemp can be used to make clothes, rope, plastics, and CBDs. Maldonado said he looked forward to “smoking a big fat hemp cigar” while listening to Drake’s “Started from the Bottom.”

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