Feds’ marijuana policy confusion exacerbating Calif. water crisis

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The federal government’s schizophrenic approach to enforcement of marijuana laws is destroying California’s water supply. The state’s “Emerald Triangle” of Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties, for example, is having its water supply drained by illegal pot growers because the federal government won’t allow local officials to craft public policy addressing the issue.

“Marijuana cultivation has the potential to completely dewater and dry up streams in the areas where [cannabis farmers are] growing pretty extensively,” Scott Bauer, a biologist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), told the business website Quartz.


SEE ALSO: Alaska primed to become third state to legalize retail marijuana


California has every reason to try and solve its dilemma — pot brings in big bucks. Dale Gieringer, an economist at California Norm, told Quartz that the value of cannabis grown in the Golden State each year is between $2.5 billion and $5 billion. That isn’t including the export market.

“A single plant of marijuana needs about six gallons of water per day to grow. That means industrial grows need between 12,000 and 30,000 gallons of water per day,” according to Quartz. The problem for California is, unlike its ability to regulate and enforce water usage for the wine industry, its hands are tied when it comes to cannabis.

When Mendocino county began selling “cultivation permits” — and was successful at winning over skeptical growers who were scared of the federal government’s reach — DEA agents raided farms of Mendocino’s most prominently law-abiding growers, Quartz reported.

Tom Allman, Mendocino’s sheriff, explained the county’s reasoning to the publication, saying that the fees charged for cultivation permits gave local law enforcement the resources needed to go after individuals who illegally grew on public lands, dammed streams and drained water. The DEA’s raids put an end to California’s attempt to create clearly delineated categories at the local level between illegal and legal pot growers.

“That,” said CANorml’s Mr. Gieringer, “put an end to the attempt to regulate outdoor cultivation in California.”

The Emerald Triangle has 4,000 commercial growers bringing in roughly $400 million to the local economy, Quartz reported.

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