A week after Gov. Brown mandated historic water limits that exempt agriculture, an amendment to the state’s water code is emerging as part of a groundbreaking new vision for cannabis agriculture in California. The Assembly’s Committee on Agriculture will hold another hearing on AB 243 on April 15.
At first glance, Humboldt County Assembly member Jim Wood’s proposed regulation bill, the “Marijuana Watershed Protection Act” looks innocuous: It would add a single paragraph to the state’s water code, and one to the health and safety code. But, in truth, AB 243 represents a groundbreaking new vision for the future of California cannabis agriculture — especially when it comes to water use.
Under the proposed law, pot farms would have to follow the same environmental regulations that govern other farmers. Regional water boards would issue permits to pot farms, and then legal farms would operate in largely self-policing cannabis agriculture districts that would function much like ones that involve almond growers or other specialty, regional agriculture.
The proposed regulations are earth-shattering, said Hezekiah Allen, president of the Emerald Grower’s Association. “In and of itself, [AB 243] is relatively short and sweet, but what you’re seeing is absolutely” huge.
Wood’s bill would give several state agencies and regional water boards the green light to “address” pot cultivation’s environmental impacts and “coordinate” on the issue. It also would make the state water board’s marijuana pilot project — which has been working with pot farmers and has just released environmental best-practices guidelines — permanent and expand it throughout the state.
Wood said the bill is a homegrown response to pot’s environmental impacts on the North Coast, which are analogous to strip mining and clear-cutting. Many well-intentioned but misinformed medical growers think they can steal water and trash streams, thereby threatening the extinction of Coho salmon and other species.”