California’s State Water Resource Control Board’s Mission Statement
“To preserve, enhance, and restore the quality of California’s water resources and drinking water for the protection of the environment, public health, and all beneficial uses, and to ensure proper water resource allocation and efficient use, for the benefit of present and future generations.”
Dear Members of the Water Board,
I am writing on behalf of all Cannabis cultivators in Northern California. The recent new regulations promulgated by California’s Water Resource Control Board and the Department of Fish and Wildlife threaten cannabis farmers who are already struggling to come into compliance. These regulations are more extreme and stringent than regulations for any other agricultural endeavor.
In light of threatening drought conditions, cannabis cultivators recognize the need for conservation measures. We hope to be able to work with the State Water Resource Control Board on the basis of realistic measurements of actual current water use and to accommodate the realistic needs of farmers, fish and wildlife and the entire ecosystem of California. Since many cultivators live in the mountains of the Emerald Triangle we are happy to collaborate with the collection of up-to-date water use and stream flow data for the Eel River Watershed.
As declared in the Water Board’s Mission Statement above, the allocation of water use in the State needs to consider water quality, environmental protection, public health and all beneficial uses. I would submit that there is no more beneficial use of water than growing a medicinal plant which has been shown to alleviate or put into remission certain forms of Cancer. It is demonstrably the best treatment to relieve the symptoms of pediatric epilepsy, sports concussions and PTSD, which plagues many of our returning military veterans. Many Doctors are realizing that cannabis may be an avenue out of the Opioid crisis. Other medical uses of cannabis are too numerous to mention. Clearly this meets the criteria for beneficial use and public health.
It is significant that the 100 year old diversion of billions of gallons of water from Lake Pillsbury and the Eel River to the Russian River via an aqueduct to Lake Mendocino is up for review. Resolving this issue is sure to be a contentious process. If the Water Board and the Department of Fish and Wildlife are so concerned about low flow levels of the Eel River, why is so much water sent to the Russian River? (70,000+ acre feet annually, enough to water Mendocino County’s to irrigate entire 2017 cannabis crop twelve times over.)
Apparently this extra water flush in the summer is not ecologically healthy for the Russian River either. Much of this water irrigates vineyards in Ukiah Valley and Hopland, as well nearly all the vineyards in Sonoma County. I ask: “Are wine grapes a more beneficial use of water than medicinal Cannabis?” There are serious public health issues connected with alcoholism, drunk driving and domestic violence. In contrast, there has yet to be a certified death solely from cannabis use or overdose.
It is common knowledge that, in the past, the cannabis industry generated at least one half of the revenue in the Emerald Triangle. Additionally, at least one half of the jobs in the county came directly from cannabis businesses. Ancillary businesses, such as nurseries, lumber yards, automobile dealerships, etc., as well as carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc., all depended on cannabis derived income. Clearly these economic benefits are also beneficial uses. If most farmers are denied water rights as a result of over restrictive rules arbitrarily imposed there will be no legal harvest in the Emerald Triangle and the black market will flourish. Without a legal cannabis industry the people and Counties of Northern California face bankruptcy.
Many cannabis cultivators have made every effort, incurred huge expenses and suffered innumerable rule changes to come into compliance. Unfortunately, after paying for and securing approval and permits from several County and State departments, after paying consultant and professional fees and even taxes, after paying for the upgrades, only at the last instance do they find out they have no water rights. Hence all their time and expenses have gone for naught. Their land is now worth half of what it was just a year ago, because they cannot grow one of the world’s most most beneficial plants.
As of the moment, barely one percent of the estimated 35,000 to 40,000 cannabis cultivators in the Emerald Triangle and Sonoma County have been granted permits. Only about 10% even bothered to apply. They have been offered no incentive to register with State and local governments which have done nothing but persecute cannabis growers for 70 years. If, after someone applies for a cannabis cultivation permit, the Water Board then takes their water away, why would anyone make themselves known?
The first mandate of the Water Board Mission Statement is “preserve, enhance, and restore the quality of California’s water resources … for the protection of the environment.” There are numerous cannabis cultivators who employ Regenerative Agricultural Methods to improve soil fertility and use irrigation techniques to minimize water use. Some are even experimenting with dry-farming. Cannabis cultivators are in the forefront of a movement to transform industrial petro-chemical agriculture into practices which are beneficial to the environment rather than detrimental. These methods actually enhance water quality and help restore habitat while reducing water use.
We are well aware of irresponsible growers who do damage to the environment, and we are totally in support of efforts to stop this degradation. But if you deny conscientious growers the right to farm, you discourage other growers from even applying for water rights or changing their practices to be more ecological, thus prolonging the Black Market. If this happens, you will cause great harm and suffering to the very people who have been the economic support for the Emerald Triangle for at least 30 years. What industry will take their place? Will it be winemakers expanding their vineyards or lumber companies logging new forests because former cannabis land is now very cheap?
The issue is obviously the fair and equitable allocation of scarce resources. Gathering real water use data and accurate sustainable low flow measurements is imperative to support case-by-case analysis and allocation of water resources. We wish to participate in such data collection to ensure water for all beneficial uses, public health and preservation of the environment.