Monday afternoon, the Parks, Energy and Environment Committee considered a long-awaited study on the potential for growing and producing industrial hemp in the greenhouses at the Mitchell Park Domes. The long-awaited study was conducted after Supervisor Sylvia Ortiz-Velez proposed that Milwaukee County engage in hemp production, research, and certification. Ortiz-Velez called for a study back in September 2018.

The recommendation of the long-awaited study? Eh, maybe it’s best to wait until Wisconsin figures out the whole “legalization” thing. And maybe it’s best if a college or university—and not Milwaukee County on its own—handles it. And doing it at the Domes is totally unfeasible.

“It is recommended that Milwaukee County allow time for the State of Wisconsin to resolve the issue of marijuana legalization and assess any potential changes of State permitting in light of changing attitudes towards hemp at the federal level prior to pursuing any hemp related program,” the study’s recommendation reads. “Regarding the viability of said programming, hemp production is an industrial agricultural operation that requires vast amounts of land to be profitable and the Mitchell Park Greenhouses do not have adequate space to accommodate a successful industrial growing operation. Concepts such as a research facility should involve, or ideally be led by, colleges and universities that are better suited for such a function as has occurred in all other states pursuing hemp research.”

Ortiz-Velez spoke at Monday’s meeting and brought up some disagreements with the study. Issues of expense, profit, and security were discussed. Ortiz-Velez also suggested that a focus on cloning would be a better fit for the Domes greenhouses.

Sen. Lena Taylor was in attendance, too, and testified—multiple times—in support of hemp production. “Will Milwaukee County be on the cutting edge of not what is illegal, but what is legal,” she said. Sen. Taylor also rejected the study’s findings, and, along with Denver-based independent real estate agent Patti Zanin, suggested that Milwaukee County re-educate itself on the subject.

The initial Request For Information (RFI) back in September produced three responses. One suggested “to not grow hemp and rather focus on other uses of the greenhouses that [have] a higher public purpose.” The other response “proposed a business plan that would require an investment of $200,000 in new lighting and equipment, the use of County staff and materials, and the installation of a solar facility in Mitchell Park at an unknown expense.”

Monday’s hemp study is separate from another impeding study on the feasibility of moving an industrial hemp operation a business park near 35th and Capitol in Century City.

Back in March, Ortiz-Velez spoke out against a study that recommended demolishing the Mitchell Park Domes and replacing them with a new, shared facility with the Milwaukee Public Museum.

Here’s the full recommendation from the hemp study:

This report is for informational purposes. Based upon this research, it is recommended that Milwaukee County allow time for the State of Wisconsin to resolve the issue of marijuana legalization and assess any potential changes of State permitting in light of changing attitudes towards hemp at the federal level prior to pursuing any hemp related program. Regarding the viability of said programming, hemp production is an industrial agricultural operation that requires vast amounts of land to be profitable and the Mitchell Park Greenhouses do not have adequate space to accommodate a successful industrial growing operation. Concepts such as a research facility should involve, or ideally be led by, colleges and universities that are better suited for such a function as has occurred in all other states pursuing hemp research.

Hemp product certification will need to occur to ensure that the THC content of hemp and CBD products are below the 0.3% limit, though the method of testing and standards will be impacted by the resolution of State laws with the 2018 federal farm bill. Milwaukee County would need to hire additional staff to support a hemp production or research program as currently no staff are devoted to these tasks. Given these factors, it is recommended that Milwaukee County allow for all of these evolving topics to reach a resolution prior to investing in an industrial hemp operation.

About The Author

Matt Wild
Co-Founder and Editor

Matt Wild weighs between 140 and 145 pounds. He lives on Milwaukee's east side.

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