New York Industrial Hemp Growth - Health, Quiet Enjoyment, Noxious Smell, Property Values
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New York State and the Federal government recently opened doors in NY State for the legal growth of hemp (as opposed to marijuana which is still illegal) without any real discussion regarding the effects of such growth on public health, the environment and people's enjoyment of their property when located within proximity to a facility growing such hemp.
While Hemp may be the new cash crop which (reportedly) can help farms be more profitable, the lack of any constraints nor acknowledgement of the harm such operations cause to neighboring homes is troubling.
First, we differentiate Industrial Hemp Research from true "agricultural" uses in the following ways:
1. No other agricultural use has such an intense smell that travels such far distances. Even a pig farm, which is arguably as smelly an agricultural operation as possible, is limited in size and does not take up 100+ acres, all of which produce a noxious smell.
2. Most agricultural uses do not create dust and particulate that can travel many miles and coat nearby structures, cars, clothing, pools, etc.
3. Most agricultural uses are not touted as "industrial" hemp under a "research program.
4. Most agricultural uses do not require substantial security fences with cameras, obnoxious and rather insulting signage regarding trespassing and/or guards (possibly armed).
5. Most agricultural uses do not have people stopping on the side of the road to gawk, take photos and/or try to steal hemp plants.
6. Most agricultural uses have been established for a long time and, while hemp growing has been done since humans started being agrarians, the hemp industry in NY and the US in general is in its infancy and it is still experimental in nature. Things such as health effects, effects to the environment, effects to property values, etc. are largely an unknown.
Second, the following facts are largely indisputable for anyone who lives in proximity to an industrial hemp growing operation.
1. The smell, stemming from the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the form of terpenes, is extremely unpleasant and directly affects the enjoyment of nearby homes and properties This relates both to indoor activities and outdoor activities. Even with windows closed, the smell reaches indoor spaces through cracks, vents, etc.. Unfortunately, the peak season of the smell corresponds to the peak season for outdoor enjoyment.
2. The smell extends large distances (easily up to a 1/2 mile or more depending on the winds).
3. The dust coats nearby structures, cars, clothing, pools, etc. with a residue which becomes dirty.
4. The pollen and smell from the VOCs causes noticeable health effects resulting in poor breathing, coughing, nausea, etc. This is especially true with sensitive populations such as people with asthma, young children and infants and the elderly.
Third, the following questions and concerns are obvious but not known due to the lack of any study associated with this fledgling industry.
1. To what extent does the pollen or VOCs create ill health effects on a short term and seasonal basis.
2. To what extent does the pollen or VOCs create long term ill health effects.
3. How far does the pollen and/or VOCs actually travel and create ill effects?
4. To what extent could the pervasive smell create a chemical dependency?
5. To what extent could the pervasive smell exacerbate existing chemical dependencies?
6. To what extent does the growth of hemp impact groundwater levels, upstream and downstream uses, etc.?
7. To what extent does the growth of hemp create concerns related to safety? What levels of security are normal and allowed?
As such, we ask that the following be done immediately:
1. All industrial hemp growth permits within New York State within 1/2 mile of any residential communities or public use facilities (i.e. any area with a residential or similar land use, town parks, etc.) immediately be put on hold directly after the 2019 harvest (this is an acknowledgement that it would be too much of a burden to ask for this years crop to be abandoned). This hold would be in place until the below studies are completed and/or a special use permit or waiver is issued by the local municipality after a public hearing and notice to all property owners within 1/2 mile of the proposed facility.
2. That the state and/or affected towns complete a detailed study into the health effects from hemp growth. This study should include a discussion of the size of the hemp growing operation, the type of hemp being grown and the different stages of the growing operation from planting to harvest.
3. That the state and/or affected towns complete a detailed study into the effects on property values from hemp growth. This study should include a discussion of the size of the hemp growing operation, the type of hemp being grown and the different stages of the growing operation from planting to harvest.
4. That the state and/or affected town complete a detailed study into distance from a hemp growth operation where the smell from the VOCs and the pollen can travel. This study should include a discussion of the size of the hemp growing operation, the type of hemp being grown and the different stages of the growing operation from planting to harvest.
5. That the state and/or affected town determine appropriate mitigation measures to limit the movement of VOCs and pollen from the hemp growth operations. There is ample science around this type of mitigation, especially as it would apply to any industrial or research facility.
6. That the above studies combined with the largely indisputable facts described above be used to both limit the areas where hemp can be grown in the future (i.e. not within 1/2 mile of a residential community) and determine appropriate mitigation measures.
We thank you ahead of time for your attention to this extremely important and timely concern.
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