ENCINITAS, Calif. — Neighbors of a North County hemp operation are blaming the business for making them sick, and federal environmental investigators are now looking into the claims.
For decades, farmers have grown flowers on the 21-acre plot of land along Leucadia Boulevard in Encinitas. But last year, Cultivaris Hemp – a hemp grower – moved in and started operating on the farm.
Not too long after that, neighbors say they noticed something wasn’t right.
“I started to notice the smell maybe around September. I thought my neighbor maybe was growing something. It grew over time and was obvious what it was,” one resident told FOX 5 Thursday.
Neighbors claim that eventually, the smell was accompanied by health problems.
“One night it was cold, with the smell came something else – it was really harsh. My wife and I got out of bed, closed the windows and were gagging. Within a few weeks, all the neighbors had the same raspy voice – so we knew something was up,” the neighbor said.
Residents say people have had numerous respiratory issues, including itchy eyes and skin.
Neighbors suspect Cultivaris Hemp may have misused pesticides. The EPA is now investigating.
“They’ve been soil-sampling the neighbors’ homes to make sure there’s nothing in the air, in our soil, that’s making some of the neighbors sick. People are having troubles, their pets are having troubles. It’s something we’re concerned about,” said another neighbor.
FOX 5 reached out to Cultivaris via the phone number listed on their website but had not been able to speak with someone at the company as of Thursday evening.
The company’s CEO, Josh Schneider, told the Coast News this week that Cultivaris made attempts to address concerns from the community regarding smells coming from the farm, but also argued that regular inspections of his business had not shown evidence of pesticide misuse.
Schneider told the newspaper he was skeptical that neighbors’ claims contained “evidence of any kind other than generalized symptoms that align with seasonal allergies.”
As for the hemp operation, neighbors were told it stopped last month and the business is moving out. The owner of Fox Point Farms has sold the land to a developer that will build a housing project — a so-called “agrihood” with affordable housing and farmland.
“We would rather have that than be exposed to pesticides, for sure,” said a neighbor.