California water regulators help target unlicensed marijuana grows

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California water regulators are helping local law enforcement identify black-market cannabis growers, a move that could benefit licensed cultivators who are losing market share to illegal operators.

The Cannabis Enforcement Unit of the California State Water Resources Control Board is tipping off authorities to investigate marijuana growers who divert or pollute waterways, The Cannifornian reported.

Here’s what you need to know:
  • The program that goes after unlicensed companies who are having a negative impact on water sources began four years ago in Northern California and has since been expanded to the southern region of the state.
  • Environmental damage is a felony under California state law.
  • The water authority has helped law enforcement in about 20 criminal cases against cannabis farmers.
  • Illegal marijuana grows have been known to divert water from legitimate sources, and chemicals and fertilizer can seep into water supplies.

The news comes as California cannabis business owners are struggling to compete with unlicensed operators, which are undercutting legal firms on price.

A new cannabis consumer survey commissioned by California-based Eaze Solutions found that 18% of Golden State respondents made a cannabis purchase from an unlicensed business in the previous three months, and 84% of those are “highly likely” to buy from that source again “due to the illicit market having cheaper products and no tax.”