The California drought has thrown cannabis cultivation practices into the spotlight, and the state has begun a historic effort
to work with growers on best-practices and fine bad actors who steal water and foul streams.
Part of that effort is education, and the State Water Board is posting a series of new pamphlets, brochures
, fact sheets, and guidelines covering everything from hillside grading to pesticide use.
As the spring planting season picks up, here are ten things California cannabis growers need to know:
State Water Board
Solid waste fouls a private property used for cannabis cultivation.
1) Don't Bulldoze Wetlands
Any work that involves digging or heavy equipment work in a watercourse/wetland or in a location where rain could wash dirt into a year-round or seasonal creek, river, wetland, or wet feature probably requires a permit from the California Water Board.
2) Don't Dam Streams
Placing any type of material or structure (e.g., stream crossing, culvert, water intake, dam, etc.) in a stream (either year-round or seasonal) probably requires a permit from the California Water Board.
3) Just Leave the Water Alone
Diverting water from a stream probably requires a permit from the California Water Board.
4) Building Roads Requires a Permit
Building any roads, landings, terraces or other features that involve placement of earthen fill material on your land needs a permit from the California Water Board, and the project may harm water quality if not constructed carefully, subjecting you to enforcement and possible penalties.
5) Moving Earth Requires a Permit
Grading, excavating, or otherwise moving earth on your property may require a permit from the California Water Board.
6) Keep Chemicals Out of Streams
Using and/or storing pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, fuel, or other chemicals on your property requires managing these materials in such a way that they will not threaten to impact surface waters or groundwater in any way. Discharging any of the materials noted above to surface water or groundwater is illegal.
7) Keep Trash Out of Streams
Generating and/or storing solid waste (e.g., amendment bags, boxes, containers, dead plant material, waste soil, etc.) requires managing these materials in such a way that they will not threaten to impact surface waters or groundwater in any way. Discharging any of the materials noted above to surface water or groundwater is illegal.
8) Fines Could Be Huge
Unpermited earthwork and paving by licensed contractors
whose work affects streams and water crossings can lead to fines in excess of $10,000 per day.
9) Fines Could Be Huge, Part 2
Unlicensed earthwork could result in misdemeanor charges, 6 months in jail, $5,000 fine, and up to $15,000 in administrative fines for the first offense. The second offense carries a mandatory 90-day jail sentence and a fine of 20 percent of the contract price or $5,000.
8) Enforcement Is Going Up
As we detail in our Legalization Nation
print column on Wednesday, the State of California has dedicated more than $1.5 million to enforcing water quality laws on cannabis growers.
9) Good Growers Must Stand Up
Multi-agency water task forces are tackling the most impacted watersheds this year, but they’re looking for voluntary compliance. “What we are seeking from the growers is a commitment to work with us to solve the water quality and water supply problems in the watershed,” stated Cris Carrigan, Chief of the State Water Board’s Office of Enforcement, which is specifically focused on compliance with existing environmental regulations.
10) Report Folks Who Are Trashing Watersheds
The public can help by educating friends and neighbors and reporting water quality violations to the California Water Boards at: North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (707) 534-7128 firstname.lastname@example.org; Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (530) 224-4845, Clint.Snyder@waterboards.ca.gov; State Water Resources Control Board – Office of Enforcement Phone: (916) 341-5272, email@example.com or, you can submit an environmental complaint to Cal/EPA via the following web link