By Rofida Khairalla | Pinal Central
As Pinal County farmers expect to see a cut to the amount of Central Arizona Project water coming into the county, some cotton farmers are turning to crops that require less water, like hemp.
The shift in the agricultural industry is also encouraging municipalities like Coolidge to update city codes to accommodate the changes — something the City Council did when it approved an amendment to the zoning code during the Dec. 9 meeting.
“The federal government is allowing hemp to be used,” said Development Services Director Gilbert Lopez. “It looks a lot like marijuana but it’s not marijuana.”
Both hemp and marijuana are cannabis plants. But unlike marijuana, hemp must have a chemical composition equal to or less than 0.3% THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol — the chemical that is most widely recognized as the psychoactive component in marijuana — to be grown legally in Arizona.
“Most local zoning codes aren’t clear as to where hemp operations are or aren’t allowed. Although requiring a use permit will be an additional step on top of state licensing, these updates certainly give prospective hemp processors some direction for site selection.”