Northern California officials blame water woes on weed


California officials this week are pulling out the scare tactics and blaming legal marijuana grows for sucking already drought-ridden streams dry and polluting the mountains with illegal fertilizers.

State fish and game leaders in Lake, Humboldt and Mendocino counties blame large-scale grows for the problem and say that the medical marijuana program protecting the growers is being abused. One sign of that, they claim, is that streams have gone dry more in the last 18 years since medical pot was legalized than before. Never mind that Northern California has swelled in population by about three million people and rainfalls have dropped considerably in recent years – this is pot’s fault, damn it.
Those concerns have led Lake County to completely ban personal cannabis grows outdoors. Denise Rushing, a Lake County supervisor, said pot farms are polluting the water supply and that Measure N, which banned farms, was needed.
“People are coming in, denuding the hillsides, damming the creeks and mixing in fertilizers that are not allowed in the U.S. into our watersheds,” Rushing said this week.
Scott Bauer, a biologist with the state wildlife department says he’s used Google maps to find about 30,000 ganja plants within each of the major river systems in Lake County. Most all of those grows were legal under state law, though.
In response, Lake County has banned outdoor personal cannabis cultivation. Cannabis farmers, though, aren’t happy with the decision and are rightly challenging the decision. They point out that the illegal diversion of streams and massive dumping of fertilizer come from a few bad apples growing cannabis illegally on public land. Damage to watersheds from 50 years of logging and overfishing are being ignored, they argue. It makes sense: sustainable, responsible farming keeps their lifestyle viable and income flowing, why would they want to ruin it?
Backers of a rival measure have no submitted 3,505 signatures to get a new measure that would overturn the ban on the ballot.
“We definitely feel environmental issues are a concern. But more restrictive … ordinances will force people to start growing in unregulated and illegal places on public land,” medical cannabis patient Daniel McClean told the AP.
State officials aren’t squarely placing the blame on pot growers or the legality of medical cannabis, though. In fact, it’s the opposite. If federal laws were changed and the demand for California cannabis was diminished elsewhere, the profit would drop and large-scale farming wouldn’t be as profitable.