We often like to think that marijuana cultivation is inherently an environmentally friendly process. Most of the perception is due in part to the hippie stereotype attached to marijuana. In truth, marijuana cultivation can be one of the most environmentally intensive crops around. A single marijuana plants requires six gallons of water day.
In states like California, where demand for marijuana is high, that can place a huge strain on natural resources already stretched too thin. To help ease the burden the cannabis growers are placing on California’s water supply, state regulators are coming together to bring the cannabis industry into compliance with state laws concerning water quality and use.
California’s State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) is currently looking at ways to bring the cannabis industry in under its regulatory purview. Although the board does not have the authority to pursue criminal action against illegal grow operations, as that would be a law enforcement issue, the organization does plan on working with industry members through outreach and education programs.
Erin Mustain, a senior water resources control engineer at the SWRCB, spoke with The Press Democrat about how the industry will receive the board’s efforts. “From our outreach efforts and the feedback we have received from the growing community, we anticipate that most cannabis cultivators and landowners will want to work with us.”
While most industries would try to resist state regulatory efforts, the cannabis industry would rather comply than risk its new found legality.
Aside from industry outreach and education, the SWRCB plans on coordinating with local officials and regulators to ensure compliance. Growers would be required to obtain a water permit before being allowed to cultivate marijuana; and every cultivator sharing the same water table would be subject to random spot checks.
Although there may be some logistical difficulties in such an undertaking, Cris Carrigan, the director of the SWRCB’s Office of Enforcement, feels confident in his agency’s ability to do so.
“When you think about it the large grows [are] very much like other types of agricultural operations; and even some of the smaller growers they’re like a construction site or a development site for a small subdivision,” Carrigan told Willits News. “So again: a type of project that we have developed pretty nimble regulations for over the years.”
As cannabis becomes legal nationwide, states undergoing draught and limited water will be put under strain from marijuana cultivation. Regulators will be watching what California does to combat this growing water crisis, and they may very well base their state’s water use regulation on what California enacts.
As an entrepreneur or investor, it is important to watch these regulatory struggles because you might find yourself altering business arrangements to comply with them. While no date is set in stone, Carrigan confirmed that there will be a 45 day public commentary period early in 2015 so keep your eyes peeled and be ready to voice your opinion. Remember this is your industry, your environment, and it is up to you to take care of both.