Marijuana Drying Up Small Tributaries

Growing cannabis would seem to be a good idea for Earth Day. It seems so natural and could possibly offer some recreational and medicinal benefits, and hefty tax revenues. But, the state of California is not feeling the love of Earth for the growers.

California, which kicked off the legalization movement increasingly is banning outdoor cultivation in various municipalities. As California legalized the growth of medicinal pot, most towns wanted to say no. Live Oak included the initial town to enforce a ban and the courts did support them. The Supreme Court in California decided against assessing the court decision which permitted Live Oak to ban growth for personal use. The decision gave additional towns the confidence to enforce bans.

Sacramento County celebrated Earth Day last April 22, by conducting a hearing on a proposal to ban outdoor and indoor growth in unincorporated places. Recently, the Martinez city council decided to outlaw cultivating medicinal pot outdoors or in public view. Beaumont, California banned it within February of 2014, as well as the city of Gridley banned outdoor growth. Selma and St. Helena city councils both have disallowed outside gardens.

The city of Moraga only allows indoor growth if it is not visible. Roseville enforces a total ban. Also, Fresno County is attempting to ban cannabis growing, yet one lawsuit by Michael Green, did cite the California Environmental Quality Act within an attempt to block this ban.

It is not a shock that courts think towns possess the right to ban pot, although the state approves of it. A precedent was established as alcohol prohibition was repealed. Most towns and counties chose to stay ‘dry.’ Over 500 municipalities are dry and almost 50% of Mississippi’s counties are dry according to the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association. In Tennessee, Moore County, home of distiller Jack Daniels is dry. Therefore, the precedent is established.

As California hasn’t regulated the cannabis industry like Washington and Colorado, there are a lot of people who’ve taken advantage of this situation. Farms that have barbed wire fences, armed guards, and costly security equipment indicate that these are not citizens cultivating their legally allotted marijuana plants. Crime also has risen in Fresno County that has suffered 9 murders since 2012 which prompted the county to think about a ban.

Then there’s the drought problem in California. There are problems with water theft from the marijuana growers who require 6 gallons of water per day per plant. As California is under a 3-year drought, there’s little tolerance for thieves of water. A fisheries biologist of the Department of Fish & Wildlife, Scott Bauer, stated 24 tributaries of Eel River are dry due to the water being utilized to irrigate marijuana farms.

According to Friends of the Eel River director, Scott Greacen, there isn’t any real question the pot industry now is the largest sector as far as our concerns. He wrote that local governments have to define the limitations of acceptable practices, in order for responsible cultivators to know exactly where they stand, as well as law enforcement may more easily close down destructive operations.

As these cultivators bring water theft, crime, and additional risks, the community in general feels threatened. The medicinal pot plants are supposed to help sick individuals, yet if they make our environment sick, nobody wins.