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Hemp farmers in Elbert County say new ordinance could put them out of business

Hemp farmers worry over county ordinance
Posted at 4:56 PM, Oct 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-06 20:23:18-04

ELIZABETH, Colo. — Aubin Kemp has lived on his land near Elizabeth with his wife for several years. He said a new Elbert County ordinance, which will increase their fees for growing hemp, could put them out of business.

"This is our home family farm," Kemp said. "We raise hemp on our property. I also grow medical marijuana for myself and my family, and we also have chickens."

Currently, Aubin and other industrial hemp farmers in Elbert County pay only a total of $1,000 annually — $500 to license through the state and $500 through the county to grow and cultivate the plant.

However, a proposed ordinance would add a $500 application review fee, $1,200 per permitted parcel up to five acres, and $1,200 for each greenhouse no larger than 1,000 square feet. After that, it's an extra $2 per square foot.

County officials said the increased fees would go toward administrative costs and law enforcement patrols.

Jim Vanerbrush is another Elbert County hemp farmer. He said he doesn't know if he would be able to afford all the new fees if this ordinance is adopted.

"With this new Elbert County licensing, we're basically paying them a payroll to police us," Vanerbursh said. "I feel like there will be more problems, and Elbert County farmers will choose to look to other counties."

Kemp said the ordinance also wouldn't allow him to grow hemp and medical marijuana on the same land. He said his wife, who has epilepsy, relies on the medical marijuana they grow.

He said if the ordinance passes, he'll have to consider either moving or changing the way he cultivates his land.

"I want the commissioners to understand that this is not harmful. This is not a risk to the fellow residents of Elbert County, and that we are doing this in a very safe and responsible manner and complying with all laws," Kemp said.