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California Drought Affecting Medical Marijuana Industry

By Rebecca McCurry 09/02/2014

By now, most people have heard about the significant drought affecting California, affecting approximately 60 percent of the state. This historic drought is the worst ever California experienced. Droughts are terrible for many reasons, and they significantly affect the agriculture industry. Among the industries affected by the current drought are medical marijuana farmers.

Medical marijuana grower, Swami Chaitanya discusses the impact the drought has, “Virtually every grower I’ve talked to this year has said, ‘Ok I can’t just grow as many, I’m going to grow fewer’ because you want to make sure you have water for those you do have.” Many medical marijuana farmers are using environmentally-friendly ways to grow their crops such as using unique irrigation systems to use less water. State officials explain that when people grow pot illegally in areas like Lake County, it’s possibly making the drought even worse by tapping into water sources illegally.

During the drought, California citizens are subject to strict water restrictions. On July 29, 2014, emergency management for water conservation went into effect. “The new conservation regulation targets outdoor urban water use. In some areas of the state, 50 percent or more of daily water use is for lawns and outdoor landscaping. This rule establishes the minimum level of activity that residents, businesses, and water suppliers must meet as the drought deepens and will be in effect for 270 days unless extended or repealed.”

An article by The New York Times explains how hundreds of illegal marijuana operations are diverting water for thousands of plants and putting chemicals into the water sources. People like these illegal growers are giving legit medical marijuana growers a bad reputation. “In July, Lake County enacted an ordinance that demanded that producers account for their water supply; as in Mendocino, the county that also has a tip line to stop violators.” Principal planner for Lake County, Kevin Ingram explain, “It’s very pointedly meant to stop a lot of what we’re seeing – the illegal diversions, damming up of creeks, tapping into springs that may be on someone else’s property.”

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