The Environmental Impacts of Marijuana Prohibition, Ctd

Photo: California National Guard.

Photo: California National Guard.

A reader sends along an interesting take from Mother Jones on the recent large-scale raids on marijuana properties in northern California.  The report supports my concerns (outlined here) that water-stressed areas might start experiencing an awkward convergence of water and marijuana legal frameworks as states begin focusing their limited enforcement capacities on properties allegedly violating both paradigms:

There were helicopters, SWAT teams, and nearly 100,000 marijuana plants yanked out of the ground, but last week's massive raid in Northern California's rugged Emerald Triangle was not your father's pot bust. Carried out by county law enforcement with no help from the DEA, it targeted private landowners—and not just because they were growing pot, police say, but because they were illegally sucking some 500,000 gallons of water a day from a section of the nearby Eel river that is now stagnant and moss-ridden.  In short, the cops say this was as much a water raid as a pot raid. 

I remain skeptical of using water rights violations as a justification for marijuana raids, largely because marijuana cultivation remains at-best a gray-market activity, making it difficult for growers to comply with state environmental regulations without making themselves vulnerable to federal seizures and arrests.  And as with other regulatory realms, the state will struggle to enforce consistently:

A leading advocate for Northern California pot growers scoffs at the notion that the raid was environmentally motivated. "This isn't about the environment; this is about business as usual," says Hezekiah Allen, director of the Emerald Growers Association [...] "There are 2,200 un-permitted water diversions for wine grapes in the Central Valley," he points out, citing a state report, "so I am curious when we are going to see the sheriff show up and chop down un-permitted vines. If we are agnostic about what the crop is, the same crime should lead to the same activity. That is all we are asking, just to be treated like any other crop."