Legalization of weed means individuals can now grow it without having to fear anything and supply it to cannabis dispensaries near me. California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana over two decades ago but has not put enough rules in place to govern its production. With legalization of recreational marijuana come Jan.1, the surge in demand will attract more growers. If no regulatory regulations are not implemented, environmental problems may result.
According to Jennifer Carah, a senior freshwater ecologist for Nature Conservancy’s water program, cannabis growers have not been subject regulatory processes to grow and sell their crop like other farmers. She also says weed’s quasi-legal status has incentivized secrecy which has put state bodies prone to federal prosecutions for regulation local production. As well, California is still producing large amounts of illegal weed that is exported across the country.
Despite the medical marijuana regulatory system, most of the growers do not get basic permits for water and land use. And this has resulted in serious environmental problems.
Carah revealed that cannabis growers usually tap small headwater streams directly in summer, depriving inhabiting fish of water when they need it the most.
At the peak of the growing season, outdoor weed growers use an estimated 60 million gallons of water on their crops every day, which is twice the amount used by San Francisco’s residents. During periods of dry months, weed plantations drain the life out of California’s most sensitive watersheds and rivers.
According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, such methods of irrigation can reduce or in the worst scenario eliminate streamflow during the dry season, especially during drought years. The problem worsens by the fact that the cultivation mostly takes place in the state’s remote most valuable watersheds. During that time, existence of threatened species such as amphibians and salmon is threatened.
Weed farming has also been linked to illegal forest clearing and road construction, which damage streams, increase erosion, and destroy habitats. Lack of proper regulatory mechanisms also increases environmental pollution and wildlife poisoning through petroleum fuels, herbicides, fertilizers, and pesticides.
All along the Nature Conservancy and associates have been working to see laws implemented to protect the state’s natural resources. One of its biggest successes is the influence on the 2015 Cannabis Regulation Act that provided a regulatory framework for addressing cultivation, distribution by marijuana dispensaries and others, marijuana, transport, and distribution. Currently, they are working with state bodies to implement the new standards.
Working with other partners and the government, the Conservancy also worked to draft Senate Bill 837 that was signed by Gov. Brown in June 2016. This is a budgetary measure giving authority to the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the California State Water Resources Control Board to incorporate given water use guidelines into weed growers’ permits. The permits also include water monitoring, reporting, and measuring requirements to give state bodies and interested private organizations a deeper insight into environmental problems and how to address them.
More changes are being made to Proposal 64 such as environmental protections. The conservancy ensured the bill will fund environmental damage prevention and clean up existing damages from weed growth.
Carah said they expect Proposal 64 will be implemented as it will generate at least $200 million annually for environmental regulation, restoration, and remediation.
To protect the environment, the state is continually rolling out regulations to help bring cannabis with the mainstream agricultural sector and recognize the environmental damages weed production causes.
Come Jan. 1 when recreational marijuana will become fully legal, the surge in demand may encourage more growers and this means more environmental problems. Thanks to the Conservancy and other authorities concerned with environmental protection as they are making a lot of effort to ensure this doesn’t happen.
As this is a unique agricultural sector that is coming out of the blues, there is need to reach a point where weed growers are subjected environmental regulations as well as the overall safety and health requirements. Also, there is need to allocate enough resources to law enforcement authorities that crack down on illegal weed growers and also ensure the environmental regulation and restoration authorities are allocated enough resources.