ENCINITAS — After a lengthy battle with neighbors over complaints of illness due to pesticides, Cultivaris Hemp has taken its hemp plants and moved out of its space in the city of Encinitas.
Josh Schneider, the CEO of Cultivaris Hemp, spoke to The Coast News about the situation that led the company to move its plants to a site in the Vista area.
Schneider said the complaints were largely from resident Susan Pignataro of the neighboring community.
Pignataro did not respond to requests from The Coast News for comment.
“When she claimed the problems were at its peak, there were no plants or flowers or anything in the greenhouse,” Schneider told The Coast News. “She was not even remotely concerned with the actual facts. She has approached this with a religious fervency that makes no sense.”
Pignataro, along with other residents of the neighborhood adjacent to Cultivaris Hemp and Fox Point Farms, has said that the use of pesticides in their hemp production has led to headaches and respiratory problems.
According to Scheider, there have been several government agencies that have visited the site to test for pesticides.
The county Department of Agriculture, Weights & Measures Pesticide Regulation Program began to investigate Cultivaris in April after complaints were raised from residents.
In written answers to The Coast News, the county says it is still waiting for results from those tests.
“We collected foliage and surface samples collected are currently being evaluated,” said Donna Durkel, communications officer for the county. “The findings will be presented in an investigative report following its review and approval process with the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR). We are anticipating the completion of the report by September.”
The neighbors claim that the farm was using a product called ProKure as a pesticide. The product is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a disinfectant and is marketed as an “effective formula to kill bacteria, viruses, mold, mildew and odor-causing bacteria and is perfect for eliminating your toughest odors at their source.”
The product was used by Cultivaris as a means of odor management.
Pignataro complained about continued physical issues as recently as last month but Schneider says they no longer have any hemp plants in Encinitas and began to move them away from the site in May.
Schneider said Cutivaris made every attempt to address concerns from Pignataro and her neighbors but it was not enough to satisfy their issues.
“We wanted to be good neighbors and we think we were,” Schneider said. “We addressed all their concerns in any way that was practical for us to do. It made it harder on our team because we had to keep the greenhouses closed longer to try to hold the smells in. But the whole point of greenhouses is you have to open the vents up when the sun comes out otherwise it gets very hot.”
With Cultivaris out of the city, Schneider has concerns about what impact the ordeal with Cultivaris can have on the potential for new agriculture in Encinitas.
Last year the city passed Measure H, which allowed for the production and sale of recreational cannabis. The city has yet to fully enact that measure into city ordinances.
When the city’s Planning Commission issued its recommendation to the city council regarding Measure H it included requests to add in specific odor control ordinances and enforcement policies.
“If the city considers Susan and her neighbor’s complaints valid in the face of repeated inspections with nothing found and no evidence of any kind other than generalized symptoms that align with seasonal allergies, that concerns me,” Schneider said. “That doesn’t show a real openness or friendliness to the kind of agriculture that I think will be systematically run out of Encinitas.”
Schneider, who seemed happy to have moved the plants from Cultivaris away from the neighborhood, had strong parting words for the residents adjacent to the farm.
“There is an illness going on but it’s not a physical illness,” Schneider said.