California to Regulate Water Use Among Cannabis Growers

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Up to 50,000 marijuana growers in California could be required to obtain state permits to use irrigation water under a new law which spells out operating details of the state’s Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act.

The state law, SB837, calls for an unprecedented water conservation effort, KQED reported, and one that hasn’t been tried in other states with legal marijuana industries.

It’s aimed at protecting the environment and other water users given the rapid growth of the state’s cannabis industry. Cultivators – led by the California Growers Association – support the move.

The new rules require growers to get cultivation permits from a new Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation. To get the permits, growers must certify where they are getting their water from.

The new program also directs the State Water Resources Control Board and Department of Fish and Wildlife to create a task force to assess environmental damages from marijuana growing. The task force also has the authority to collect fees and penalties from growers to pay for programs to correct the damage, KQED reported.

Growers are generally allowed to divert water from creeks or other sources on or adjacent to their land, but not when it causes environmental damage.

KQED also noted some regions lack enough water for everyone, in which case some growers may have to get water other ways, like buying it from a tanker truck or digging a well.