California is in the midst of one of the worst droughts on record. California recorded the lowest snow pack ever this month, and there is no end to the drought in sight. Despite the fact that there are many contributing factors to the drought in California, marijuana opponents have been quick to point the finger at marijuana, blaming the entire situation on marijuana cultivation. Admittedly, growing marijuana takes a lot of water, as do a lot of legal crops. But legal marijuana grows are not to blame for the drought.
One good thing is coming out of the drought in regards to marijuana. The State of California has allocated 2 million dollars towards fighting illegal water diversion from streams in Northern California for illegal marijuana cultivation sites. Every grower I have ever known from Northern California is a good steward of the land. They grow marijuana legally, and keep the environment in mind. The same cannot be said about illegal cartel grows. I think every responsible marijuana consumer can agree that cartel grows have no place on our public lands, and they should be eradicated responsibly. Every time a cartel grow damages the ecosystem in which they are located, the entire marijuana community gets blamed by marijuana opponents, which is obviously unfortunate.
At the end of last month California Governor Jerry Brown signed an emergency bill which dedicated one billion dollars towards fighting the drought in California, two million of which was specifically earmarked towards illegal water diversion for illegal marijuana gardens. Per Willits News:
The legislation was a trailer bill attached to another piece of legislation and includes an amendment to Fish and Wildlife's existing code noting that any diversion or obstruction for the production or cultivation of a controlled substance is considered "substantial" in determining whether the incident is a violation of department rules against such diversions. Civil penalties for such violations can reach $8,000 per violation.
A recently released Fish and Wildlife study showed that water diversion for marijuana cultivation coupled with drought conditions has led to the drying up of four out of five streams in the Upper Redwood Creek, Salmon Creek, Redwood Creek South and Outlet Creek (Mendocino County) watersheds. In the summer of 2014, the water diversion and drought conditions led to four out of the five streams monitored running dry.
But McGuire was careful not to vilify the whole industry, noting the importance of marijuana to the economy of the North Coast, and touting his work on a cannabis regulation bill the, SB643 Public Safety Enforcement Act of 2015, "It would put environmental rules and regulations on the books for the medical side of cannabis and it would help with the regulatory framework when marijuana becomes legal...the state is decades behind working with cultivators and dispensaries, and in putting the rules and regulations to ensure we're not sacrificing the environment...I believe that marijuana should be regulated like any other agriculture corp to ensure that those regulations are in place."
If you are a marijuana grower, in Northern California or beyond, always keep the environment in mind. Practice sustainable practices, and never divert water from public lands. We are all in this together, both in the marijuana reform movement, and as creatures of this planet. We only have one planet, let's make sure we take care of it!