On Aug. 8 the Town of Paonia Board of Trustees will consider a request for a special review/variance application to operate a commercial hemp business within town limits.
At a July 20 meeting of the town Planning Commission, members Charles Stewart, Bill Bear, Mary Bachran and Barb Heck voted to recommend approval of the application by the town board of trustees, subject to testing and reasonable inspections.
Approval by the board would allow AllHemp Trading Company and applicant Elliot Brown to operate a hemp facility on property located at 719 Second Street. The property is currently zoned "Light Industrial." Material provided by Brown states that AllHemp Solutions intends to develop and distribute affordable hemp seed to growers and specialty usage hemp farmers. Once operational, the facility would produce raw hemp oil and "will be able to produce hundreds of thousands of cuttings" at a competitive price while maintaining "reasonably high profit margins." The facility would also be used for research and development of hemp products.
The application, submitted to the town on April 24, requests changes to the existing building, including the installation of odor control infrastructure, possible construction of a small greenhouse, and additional electrical service if needed.
Brown told the DCI he was "very, very happy" with the results of the meeting.
Paonia Volunteer Fire Department board president Ron Rowell raised several concerns about the application. Rowell submitted a letter, approved by the five-member PVFD board, to the town and planning commission in opposition of the application.
As a PVFD board president, a former fire chief, and a resident living near the proposed business, Rowell told the DCI he has some "absolute serious concerns" about the proposal, including odors. "The fire department has had complaint in the past of cannabis odors in the area, and that's a concern in a residential neighborhood," Rowell told the DCI.
The board is also "very concerned" with ozone generation equipment, identified in the application as a way of controlling odors, said Rowell. When he asked the applicant about ozone, Rowell said he assured him that ozone would not be used to control odors. Used on a large scale, said Rowell, ozone is a fire hazard. He said he uses ozone in his carpet cleaning business. It's dangerous to breathe and requires numerous safety precautions. "I take it very seriously," said Rowell.
Commission chair Barb Heck said that about five members of the general public attended the meeting, and that it "went really, really well." Brown also responded to concerns about the differences between hemp and cannabis. The main difference, said Heck, is that hemp, by law, can contain no more than .3 percent THC, the psychoactive drug in cannabis.
Heck, who chairs the commission, said she was most impressed by the fact that the United States imports more than $500 million in hemp annually, and that more than 30 states have legalized the growing of hemp.