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California drought demands legislation to increase fines for water pollution caused by illegal growth

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Two bills were recently introduced to block illegal cannabis cultivation efforts, which are using more water than ever in the wake of California’s historic drought.

Kurt Hagman, president of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, said in a statement press release. “The county is determined to stop this terrible damage to the environment and protect the lives and property of our residents from lawless criminals.”

The county is sponsoring Assembly Bill 2728 presented by Society Member Thurston Smith, and Senate Bill 1426introduced by Senator Anna Caballero, to address these concerns.

AB-2728 Fines for illegal planting will increase to $1,000 for each violation day, and $2,500 per acre foot of water diverted (and if this measure is not specified, $500 per plant). These conditions will only be enforced in a “critical dry year immediately preceded by two or more consecutive below-normal, dry or critical years” in the event that the Governor of California issues a state of emergency. “Our state is dealing with an unprecedented number of illegal cannabis cultivation, particularly in the rural desert communities that I represent in the legislature. For this reason, our laws must require compliance and ensure that illegal activity is punished,” Smith said about the bill. Most recently, AB-2728 was referred to a panel on June 1.

SB-1426 It punishes “unauthorized exploitation of the infrastructure for water transmission or storage, or the drilling or extraction of groundwater from an unauthorized well.” “Illicit cultivation of cannabis is killing wildlife and causing environmental damage across the state,” Caballero said in a press release for San Bernardino in March. “This bill will help stop the contamination of groundwater supplies and water theft, which are very important during a drought that has been going on for several years.” Currently, as of May 19, the bill is currently “pending in committee and in progress.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency due to drought in California Three times so far In April, May and July 2021 due to the effects of climate change. In July 2021, Californians were asked to cut water use with a goal of reducing water use by 15%. As recently as March 2022, Newsom shared that This goal was not achievedAnd he asked local water agencies to “implement more water conservation operations.”

San Bernardino County It is one of the many areas in California that experience drought conditions. Alex Villanueva, the Los Angeles County Sheriff, explained the data on how much water is required to grow cannabis. “The average marijuana plant requires at least 3 gallons of water per plant per day,” Villanueva saidAccording to NBC Miami. “The 2021 numbers alone amount to 150 million gallons of water used to harvest this crop. That is just massive.”

However, the amount of water a cannabis plant needs to grow depends largely on its location, growing medium, and current growth stage. A 2019 survey, A Narrative Review of the Environmental Effects of Cannabis Cultivation, estimates that outdoor hemp requires 5.5 gallons per day per plant in August, and 5.1 gallons per plant in September, while indoor grown plants used 2.5 gallons in August and 5.1 gallons in September. Ultimately, the study stated that hemp plants need more water and nutrients to thrive, unlike other crops such as wheat, corn/maize, soybeans, cotton or rice.

else Study published in October 2020Called “Water Storage and Irrigation Practices for Hemp Drive Seasonal Patterns of Water Extraction and Use in Northern California,” legal hemp-growing farms use groundwater wells more often than other water sources, such as streams, rainwater, springs, and municipal water systems. “Our findings indicate that water extraction from farms using groundwater wells generally occurs during the summer dry season and highlight the need to assess their potential effects on surface water connected to streams,” Study authors wrote.

Society member Tom Lackey, a longtime resident of California’s high desert, issued a statement of his own regarding the use and contamination of water by illegal farmers. “To any of those involved in illicit acts grow: I want you to know that there is a team effort, and we are going after you,” Lucky said At a press conference on May 18 “You come after something very sacred: our community. You come after our desert, and you steal our water. You poison our land, and our palms.”

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