New California Law Aims to Better Inspect Marijuana Farms Suspected of Water Misuse, Environmental Violations

New California Law Aims to Better Inspect Marijuana Farms Suspected of Water Misuse, Environmental Violations

The Merced County Sheriff’s Department in California discovered several migrants who are human trafficking victims living in “horrible” conditions and working as apparent indentured laborers at an illegal marijuana grow operation in Merced, Calif., on July 26, 2023. (Courtesy of Merced County Sheriff’s Department)

Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock

10/14/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

A California bill, which will give the state’s water control board and similar regional boards more authority to investigate cannabis farms relative to water contamination, environmental destruction, deforestation, and contributing to the state’s drought issues, was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in September.
Authored by Sen. John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), Senate Bill 756 authorizes the state and regional water boards to inspect properties or facilities suspected of improperly using water or not acting in accordance with state water regulations.
Under the new law, state and regional water boards can request consent from property owners of such farms to perform an inspection but, if denied, the bodies can issue an inspection warrant to do so.
The new law additionally now allows water board staff to accompany police in an investigation, and the tracking of mailed enforcement letters to ensure compliance.
“This bill protects not only our environment, but legal cannabis operators from illegitimate businesses,” Mr. Laird said in a September press release.
In the analysis, various lawmakers said the bill was needed amidst environmental concerns brought on by illegal growers, including cannabis cultivators, “clear-cutting old growth redwoods, diverting streams and rivers, subsequently contaminating those same waterways with harmful pesticides and ground runoff, and improperly grading hillsides, resulting in increased runoff during the rainy season,” they wrote.
Also of concern was that some local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies lack resources to address illegal cannabis operations in rural parts of the state, which under the new law is addressed by empowering state and regional water boards’ oversight.
Those in support of the bill include a coalition of environmental advocates and water agencies, including the California Municipal Utilities Association, which represents 74 publicly owned electric utilities, water agencies, and gas and oil services in the state. The association said the new law will help protect water supply for its members.
“[Our] members’ water supplies can be negatively impacted by unlicensed cannabis operations and we appreciate the author’s work to provide the Board with the tools they need to investigate and pursue enforcement of these grows or other facilities,” they wrote in an analysis of the bill.
There are roughly 5,000 greenhouses illegally cultivating marijuana in Siskiyou County, Calif., according to the county's Sheriff's Department in March 2023. (Courtesy of the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department)

There are roughly 5,000 greenhouses illegally cultivating marijuana in Siskiyou County, Calif., according to the county's Sheriff's Department in March 2023. (Courtesy of the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department)

The California Coastkeeper Alliance—a nonprofit that advocates for clean, healthy waters in California—which also signed on in support, reiterated similar points in an email to The Epoch Times.
“We were very happy to see the Governor sign SB 756 into law. Unlicensed cannabis grows are a significant threat to California’s water supply and quality. The new law addresses this significant threat by providing the California Water Boards with the proper legal tools to investigate and enforce water quality and diversion violations associated with unlicensed cannabis cultivation,” said Sean Bothwell, executive director of the alliance.
No opposition was received for the bill.
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Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock

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Rudy Blalock is a Southern California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times. Originally from Michigan, he moved to California in 2017, and the sunshine and ocean have kept him here since. In his free time, he may be found underwater scuba diving, on top of a mountain hiking or snowboarding—or at home meditating, which helps fuel his active lifestyle.

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