When Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana in 2012, it jumpstarted a national trend towards acceptance and an incredible Green Rush. The Huffington Post declared that “Legal marijuana is among the fastest-growing markets in the United States.” Some say that California grows the best cannabis. Most would agree that California grows the most. The question is, will the drought in California change that and how will that affect the price of medical marijuana?
According to USA Today Gov. Jerry Brown declared a statewide drought emergency Friday, an action that sets the stage for new state and federal efforts. Brown is urging voluntary water conservation to the tune of a 20% reduction. But he stopped short of saying such a reduction should be mandatory — for now, at least.
Across the state, agriculture is responsible for more than three-quarters of California's water use, according to a 2009 UCLA report.
In a piece called Marijuana & the California Drought by Barry Vogel on Radio Curious, Tim Blake shared his thoughts as one of the country's leading experts in Sun Grown Organic Cannabis. Tim is the founder of The Emerald Cup, California’s oldest competition among outdoor growers of organic cannabis.
“ The people that have water, that have deep wells or large lakes or ponds are going to do quite well ‘cause you’re going to see cannabis probably double or triple in cost over the next year just like every other agricultural product because you’re going to lose probably 2/3 to 90% of the available parcels to grow on. I mean a lot of these parcels that were not water rich that basically have been bringing water in are using small springs, they’re drying up. They’re not going to have any water. So you’re going to have all these people planting their crops this year and then one by one they’re going to have to let them go as the summer drags on. So you’re going to see people fighting over water, trying to get illegal water from trucks, bringing it in like in Humboldt stealing it from schools. It’s going to be a disaster.”
In an article in The Christian Science Monitor blog weirdly titled the "Bright Green Blog" the argument is made that cannabis cultivation is a big part of the water shortage problem.
"They're using a whole lot of water." said Lt. Rusty Noe of the Mendocino County sheriff's office in a telephone interview with the Bright Green Blog.
Lt. Noe noted that police have seized more than 500,000 pot plants this season in Mendocino County alone. Each plant requires about one gallon of water per day. California is entering the fourth year of asevere drought, with residents in some areas facing the first mandatory water restrictions in two decades and farms laying off thousands of workers.
"It's really affecting our water supply," said Noe of the illicit growing sites.
Bruce Mirken of the Marijuana Policy Project responded put this crazy quilt of jingoism, fear, and name calling in perspective in his comment on the post:
Despite the comments from official sources quoted in this piece, the problem is not marijuana — which, as an agricultural commodity, is pretty unremarkable and not unusually water-intensive. The problem is prohibition, which keeps the state’s immense marijuana industry outside the normal regulations that apply to other farmers and puts it in an entirely unregulated criminal underground. If we treated marijuana like we treat beer, wine, and liquor, it would be grown by farmers who — like those who now grow wine grapes or barley and hops for beer — would have to abide by labor, environmental, and water-conservation laws. In California, that includes water allocations that are subject to reduction in drought years. It is a common rhetorical trick for officials to blame the problems caused by prohibition on marijuana, but the real problem is bad policies producing bad (and entirely predictable) results.
There is little doubt that the drought in California this year will affect millions of people. We will be following this story to see how it will affect cannabis supplies and prices. Stay tuned!