Skip to main content

Water Quality Oversight Comes to California’s Cannabis Market

water cans

On Tuesday, California’s State Water Board announced a strict new water policy for the Golden State’s exploding cannabis cultivation in attempt to create environmental standards to guide the immense growth expected over coming years in the industry.

According to

“The new Cannabis Cultivation Policy establishes statewide requirements that will be implemented through a water quality permit known as the Cannabis General Order and as conditions for cannabis-related water rights referred to as Cannabis Small Irrigation Use Registrations. The policy protects California’s waters from cannabis-related waste discharges, establishes protections for riparian areas and wetlands, and protects stream flows.

“The policy was adopted following a public review process that included three workshops earlier this year to solicit comments and feedback. The draft policy was released in early July, building on existing regulations developed by the North Coast and Central Valley regional water quality control boards. The new statewide policy replaces those regional regulations.

“The policy was also developed in consultation with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and will be incorporated into all commercial cannabis licenses issued by CDFA under its CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing Program. The policy takes effect upon approval by the Office of Administrative Law, expected sometime late in 2017.”

As someone who spent several years in graduate school studying water policy, I must say I am very excited for this development. While the reasons to legalize cannabis are innumerable, ensuring agricultural production is sustainable for future generations is of paramount importance to me personally, and frankly, globally. This includes responsible regulation that effectively monitors nutrients and pesticides, and involves community stakeholders in decision-making.

There have been a lot of scary stories over the years regarding things that have happened at clandestine grow operations, and the story of poisoning land and water for profits is all too common. While no entrepreneur is excited about the costs of increased bureaucracy, clarity in water rights and proper standards of water use will be essential for good actors to succeed.  Moreover, the impetus to reduce water usage will surely result in more efficient systems of production than currently exist.

While things are certainly getting more complicated, I am enjoying watching the cannabis movement become more nuanced through liberalization of the industry. I am happy to be watching the ripple effects of our states taking responsibility for controlling the cannabis market, and maybe, just maybe, making the world a better place through legalization.

There’s no better place to learn about how cannabis legalization is making the world a better place, than the International Cannabis Business Conference. Come join us this December 1-3 in Kauai, Hawaii, and again in San Francisco, California, on February 1-2, 2018. Get your early-bird tickets today! To learn about water rights and policies for the Oregon cannabis industry, be sure to get tickets to the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference in Ashland on November 18-19. 

CalCannabis, California, California State Water Board, water rights