News Feature | December 30, 2014

California Water Regulators Want Authority Over Marijuana

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

California water regulators want a say in how marijuana is overseen because cultivating this plant could affect water quality.

California’s State Water Quality Control Board (SWQCB) "is looking to bring cannabis cultivation under its regulatory purview in order to abate potential negative impacts to waterways and the species that depend on them," The Siskiyou Daily recently reported.

Chris Carrigan, director of the SWQCB’s Enforcement office, detailed the board's plan for its involvement.

"According to Carrigan, the SWQCB does not currently regulate cannabis cultivation the way it does other agricultural activities. He noted that the agency lacks authority to enforce criminal statutes, but it can rely on its regulatory role to monitor discharges that negatively impact water supply and quality," the news report said.

"The main focus of regulatory actions, according to Carrigan, has to do with sedimentary discharges from improper road grading and runoff of pesticides and fertilizers," the report said.

A pilot project in Northern California is aimed at producing guidelines for the water board as it moves ahead.

The Watershed Enforcement Team (WET) "has been put together as a joint program of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) with the State Water Resources Control Board (Water Boards) to participate in regulating the marijuana industry and to protect the public trust. In the Humboldt County area, [officials] will work to get people in compliance with existing state laws, Bauer said," Willits News recently reported.

The intense water needs of marijuana plants have been an issue of concern in California amid its record-setting drought.

"Many communities are fighting not the mere cultivation of cannabis — which is legal in the state, though subject to myriad restrictions — but the growers’ use of water. Marijuana is a thirsty plant, and cultivating it at a time when California residents are subject to water restrictions has become a sticky issue," the New York Times reported.

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