Medical marijuana farms ask for protections from hemp industry

Updated: Apr. 29, 2019 at 6:58 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (KOLD News 13) - Industrial hemp farming will become a reality in southern Arizona in about a month.

It’s exciting news for many interested in cultivating the crop. But the possibility of cross-contamination is causing real concern for medical marijuana farmers.

A windy day Monday, April 29, posed no problems at Amado Management, especially for employees like Damien Kennedy.

"Coming here and working with everyone is the best part of my job," he said.

Kennedy works with more than 100 people each day.

They each make money by paying close attention to the green.

"Well, we definitely don't grow lettuce," he joked.

They plant and cultivate medical marijuana.

The wind outside could eventually make an impact when hemp farming in Arizona becomes legal at the end of May.

"The strong southerly winds that we have would push their pollen towards us," Kennedy explained.

Here's what he said would be the problem.

If a hemp farm sets up shop too close, medical marijuana farmers could see their plants rendered useless of the hemp pollen touches them.

"It'll pollinate," Kennedy said. "It'll form seeds and it will be done for us."

Kennedy took KOLD News 13 on a tour of Amado Management’s grow operations to show us how easy it would be for hemp pollen to slip through the cracks if planted too close.

Each plant is a female and workers check for any possible signs of male plants every single day.

Take it from the company's general manager, Ernesto Becerril.

He said this issue hurts both marijuana and hemp industries - since their plants are of the same species.

"Medical marijuana with seeds is not a good product," Becerril explained. "Hemp with THC is not a good product."

To protect both growing industries, this company wants there to be a regulated buffer between hemp and medical marijuana farms.

They want at least 10 miles between the two.

"Ten miles isn't the best, but it's a comfortable distance and it would help each industry," Kennedy said.

With no real answers, Kennedy hopes something can be done to protect both industries.

So his job and the hundreds of others stay safe and they can keep enjoying each others' company.

Amado Management is located in Santa Cruz County and supervisors there told us the same thing they told the company.

They're "investigating the possibility - but the person in charge of the inquiry is no longer employed with the county."

KOLD News 13 was told the county is currently searching for a new planning and zoning director.

Copyright 2019 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.