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Current Events & Hot Topics Current Events & Hot Topics

STUDY FINDS MEDICAL POT FARMS DRAINING STREAMS DRY

Posted by on Jun. 1, 2014 at 9:42 PM
  • 21 Replies

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Some drought-stricken rivers and streams in Northern California's coastal forests are being polluted and sucked dry by water-guzzling medical marijuana farms, wildlife officials say - an issue that has spurred at least one county to try to outlaw personal grows.

State fish and wildlife officials say much of the marijuana being grown in northern counties under the state's medical pot law is not being used for legal, personal use, but for sale both in California and states where pot is still illegal.

This demand is fueling backyard and larger-scale pot farming, especially in remote Lake, Humboldt and Mendocino counties on the densely forested North Coast, officials said.

"People are coming in, denuding the hillsides, damming the creeks and mixing in fertilizers that are not allowed in the U.S. into our watersheds," said Denise Rushing, a Lake County supervisor who supports an ordinance essentially banning outdoor grows in populated areas.

"When rains come, it flows downstream into the lake and our water supply," she said.

Many affected waterways also contain endangered salmon, steelhead and other creatures protected by state and federal law.

Wildlife biologists noticed streams running dry more often over the 18 years since the state passed Proposition 215, but weren't sure why.

"We knew people were diverting water for marijuana operations, but we wanted to know exactly how much," said Scott Bauer, the department biologist who studied the pot farms' effects on four watersheds. "We didn't know they could consume all the water in a stream."

So Bauer turned to Google mapping technology and satellite data to find out where the many gardens are, and how many plants each contained.

His study estimates that about 30,000 pot plants were being grown in each river system - and he estimates that each plant uses about six gallons per day over marijuana's 150-day growing season. Some growers and others argue the six-gallon estimate is high, and that pot plants can use far less water, depending on size.

He compared that information with government data on stream flows, and visited 32 sites with other biologists to verify the mapping data. He said most grow sites had posted notices identifying them as medical pot farms.

Pot farm pollution has become such a problem in Lake County, south of Bauer's study area, that officials voted unanimously last year to ban outdoor grows.

"Counties are the ultimate arbiter of land use conflict, so while you have a right to grow marijuana for medicinal use, you don't have a right to impinge on someone else's happiness and wellbeing," Rushing said.

Saying they were being demonized, pot users challenged the law, and gathered enough signatures to place a referendum on the June 3 ballot. They argue that grow restrictions like the ones being voted on in Lake County lump the responsible users in with criminals.

"We definitely feel environmental issues are a concern. But more restrictive ... ordinances will force people to start growing in unregulated and illegal places on public land," said Daniel McClean, a registered nurse and medical marijuana user who opposes the outdoor-grow ban.

While some counties are trying to help regulate the environmental effects of pot farms, Bauer hopes his study will lead to better collaboration with growers to help police illegal use of water and pesticides.

Previous collaborative attempts between government and growers have not ended well, said Anthony Silvaggio, a Humboldt State University sociology professor who studies the pot economy.

"The county or state gets in there and starts doing code enforcement on other things," Silvaggio said. "They've done this in the past"

He said pot farmers believe they are being unfairly blamed for killing endangered salmon while decades of timber cutting and overfishing are the real culprits.

However, the environmental damage has led to a split in the marijuana growing community.

One business, the Tea House Collective in Humboldt County, offers medicinal pot to people with prescriptions that it says is farmed by "small scale, environmentally conscious producers."

"Patients who cannot grow their own medicine can rely on our farmers to provide them with the best holistic medicine that is naturally grown, sustainable and forever Humboldt," the group's website advertises.

Despite efforts of some pot farmers to clean things up, the increased water use by farms is a "full-scale environmental disaster," said Fish and Wildlife Lt. John Nores, who leads the agency's Marijuana Enforcement Team.

"Whether it's grown quasi legally under the state's medical marijuana laws, or it's a complete cartel outdoor drug trafficking grow site, there is extreme environmental damage being done at all levels," Nores said.

Officials say until the federal government recognizes California's medical marijuana laws, growers will continue to operate clandestinely to meet market demand for their product due to fear of prosecution. Meantime, enforcing federal and state environmental regulations will be harder.

"If cherry tomatoes were worth $3,000 a pound, and consumption was prohibited in most states, people would be doing the same thing," Nores said.

by on Jun. 1, 2014 at 9:42 PM
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Replies (1-10):
jllcali
by Jane on Jun. 1, 2014 at 10:59 PM
4 moms liked this
Because pot is the only crop that needs water?
GLWerth
by Gina on Jun. 1, 2014 at 11:34 PM
5 moms liked this

Obviously. The only one.

Clearly, this is the whole reason for the drought in the first place....it's REEFER MADNESS!

Quoting jllcali: Because pot is the only crop that needs water?


jllcali
by Jane on Jun. 1, 2014 at 11:48 PM
2 moms liked this
Gadddammned potheads!

I don't know where the article got this six gallons of water a day for each plant estimate. I knew people who grew pot back in the day. They were able to grow without using massive amounts of water.

The thing about unauthorized fertilizers and pesticides is fishy too. Unless they're using compost and it's illegal. Pot growers tend to be more concerned about the impact chemicals have on crops and the environment, not less.


Quoting GLWerth:

Obviously. The only one.

Clearly, this is the whole reason for the drought in the first place....it's REEFER MADNESS!

Quoting jllcali: Because pot is the only crop that needs water?

heresjohnny
by Bronze Member on Jun. 2, 2014 at 12:01 AM

That was my first thought. I grew up on a farm in CA. My dad drove a tractor and we lived in company housing out in the middle of the fields. There's no way...NONE...that you can convince me that the hundreds of acres my dad plowed for lettuce, celery, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, etc, doesn't impact the environment as much as a few pot farms.

Quoting jllcali: Because pot is the only crop that needs water?


jllcali
by Jane on Jun. 2, 2014 at 12:05 AM
2 moms liked this
I grew up not far (10-15 min) away from a dairy farm in California, and people were always pissing and moaning about the water used, the smell, the poo runoff. I was like "you know what you need dairy farms for? Ice Cream and cheese for tacos. So unless you give up ice cream and tacos, STFU"

Quoting heresjohnny:

That was my first thought. I grew up on a farm in CA. My dad drove a tractor and we lived in company housing out in the middle of the fields. There's no way...NONE...that you can convince me that the hundreds of acres my dad plowed for lettuce, celery, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, etc, doesn't impact the environment as much as a few pot farms.

Quoting jllcali: Because pot is the only crop that needs water?

heresjohnny
by Bronze Member on Jun. 2, 2014 at 12:14 AM

Which farm? If you don't mind my asking. I went on a field trip to a dairy farm when I was in high school, and we watched a cow being artificially inseminated, lol.

Quoting jllcali: I grew up not far (10-15 min) away from a dairy farm in California, and people were always pissing and moaning about the water used, the smell, the poo runoff. I was like "you know what you need dairy farms for? Ice Cream and cheese for tacos. So unless you give up ice cream and tacos, STFU"
Quoting heresjohnny:

That was my first thought. I grew up on a farm in CA. My dad drove a tractor and we lived in company housing out in the middle of the fields. There's no way...NONE...that you can convince me that the hundreds of acres my dad plowed for lettuce, celery, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, etc, doesn't impact the environment as much as a few pot farms.

Quoting jllcali: Because pot is the only crop that needs water?



jllcali
by Jane on Jun. 2, 2014 at 12:19 AM
I don't know the name. It was in SoCal. I'm not going to specify.

Quoting heresjohnny:

Which farm? If you don't mind my asking. I went on a field trip to a dairy farm when I was in high school, and we watched a cow being artificially inseminated, lol.

Quoting jllcali: I grew up not far (10-15 min) away from a dairy farm in California, and people were always pissing and moaning about the water used, the smell, the poo runoff. I was like "you know what you need dairy farms for? Ice Cream and cheese for tacos. So unless you give up ice cream and tacos, STFU"

Quoting heresjohnny:

That was my first thought. I grew up on a farm in CA. My dad drove a tractor and we lived in company housing out in the middle of the fields. There's no way...NONE...that you can convince me that the hundreds of acres my dad plowed for lettuce, celery, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, etc, doesn't impact the environment as much as a few pot farms.

Quoting jllcali: Because pot is the only crop that needs water?

RandRMomma
by Maya on Jun. 2, 2014 at 12:57 AM
3 moms liked this
Why, of course.

Weed is to blame for everything.

Weed and Obama.


Quoting jllcali: Because pot is the only crop that needs water?
Ziva65
by Gold Member on Jun. 2, 2014 at 2:15 AM
2 moms liked this

They need to add Siskiyou County to that list. It's one of the counties that's featured on that pot growing show. We have a cabin up there, and a huge water tank (meant to fight fires if needed for CDF), and we have a well. there are concerns about stolen water, moreso than environmental damage honestly.

People have had water stolen from their water tanks, and the people who do live there year round have figured it out, we have a few pot farms nearby. It's in the forest, nicely hidden. Last time we drove up there, we got there at night. Funny lights a few doors down... hmm. Our water was still there- we do all worry about our wells though....

Oh, and you can bet it isn't for medical needs- these are huge farms, well hidden- and well guarded. But, the county and city officials aren't really aggressive in trying to regulate it. Keep in mind these areas are based on self sufficiency, with a lotof people who live "off grid", carry their guns, and want to cede from the rest of California. these are the State of Jefferson people- and in many ways a very different culture and mindset there. It is also an economically depressed area- HOWEVER, they have very good water access...and one of their frustrations is how the water is siphoned off ot go to so cal... so I'm wondering a bit where this argument is really coming from.

Additionally these areas/ counties up north really have gone through huge deforestation, spills with fertilizer into the streams, trains, etc all through the rivers and streams for years. It's not even like farming areas in central California where they may be using fertilizers that leach into the ground, not at all. I'm not a proponent of anything illegal by any means, but I don't buy the argument that they are the cause of the stream and river pollution.

 

Goodwoman614
by Satan on Jun. 2, 2014 at 2:30 AM
1 mom liked this

Legal weed and gay marriage for everyone!!

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