Marijuana vs. The California Drought

by Greg Pollowitz

You’d think California would have thought about issues like water use, pollution, and enforcement before making marijuana legal, but, nope. McClatchy:

Growers of thirsty pot are under fire in drought-struck California

WASHINGTON — In drought-hit California, marijuana growers are feeling the heat, accused of using too much water for their thirsty plants and of polluting streams and rivers with their pesticides and fertilizers.

State officials say a pot plant sucks up an average of 6 gallons of water per day, worsening a shortage caused by one of the biggest droughts on record. They say the situation is particularly acute along California’s North Coast, where the growing pressure to irrigate pot threatens salmon and other fish.

“This industry _ and it is an industry _ is completely unregulated,” said Scott Bauer, a fisheries biologist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “What I just hope is that the watersheds don’t go up in smoke before we get things regulated and protect our fish and wildlife.”

California is also the most popular state for pot producers to grow crops in U.S. forests, accounting for 86 percent of the nearly 1 million plants federal officials seized in 2012.

“Those are lands that you and I own,” said Rep. Mike Thompson, a California Democrat. “And when people are growing dope there and guarding their operations with guns and the likes, and sometimes with booby traps, we can’t use the land that we own. It happens all over.”

The situation is a complicated one in California, which passed the nation’s first medical marijuana law in 1996, allowing people to possess and grow pot, even though the federal government still bans the drug.

Medical growers who tend their crops on private property object to getting lumped in with the illegal growers who are trespassing on federal lands.

They say they’re a scapegoat in the debate.

“It’s really easy to point fingers at a very large cash crop that’s completely unregulated. It’s one of the main cash crops of the state,” said Kristin Nevedal of Garberville, Calif., the founding chairwoman of the Emerald Growers Association. She doesn’t grow marijuana herself but she’s the spokeswoman for the group, which has about 400 members.

Public officials are taking aim at both the legal and illegal growers in many ways.

In pot-rich Mendocino County, the sheriff’s department is cracking down on growers who steal water.

In Sacramento, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown proposed in his January budget to spend $3.3 million to enforce pot cultivation rules to protect water and endangered species.

The rest here.

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