Water, Power, Action

Posted by Raza Lawrence on August 28, 2020

Water and Power Image

When starting a cannabis business in California, don’t forget about water and power.  Almost every business needs these utilities in order to operate, but they are especially important for cannabis cultivation, which can require large amounts of them.  Many license applicants hope to get started with their business quickly, but then are faced with the realities of delays of months or even years while working to set up their access to adequate water and power.  Accordingly, it’s important to plan ahead, and to consult with attorneys or other professionals to anticipate and overcome any obstacles.

Many people seeking to apply for a cannabis license find that their preferred location has undeveloped utility infrastructures that are incapable of getting them the water and power they need to operate.  Cannabis cultivation licenses are often located in remote areas, where land is cheaper, and neighbors are least likely to oppose cultivation activity.  Many properties in rural regions may not have any access to electrical lines, municipal water, or a well.  It can be time-consuming and expensive to bring utilities to undeveloped land.  Running new lines connecting to the local power company and municipal water can also require getting approvals from neighbors.  Getting permits for new utility connections can take months, even if everything goes as smoothly as possible.  Running the lines, whether underground or overhead, can also take a long time.

Even if your property has existing power, cultivation and manufacturing activities can often require an electrical upgrade.  The upgrade process can itself take many months in order to get the required approvals and schedule the necessary work.  If you are leasing your property, you will need to work out details of the electrical upgrade with your landlord, including who will be responsible for paying for the upgrade and completing the work.

Access to water can also sometimes be difficult.  As an agricultural crop, cannabis requires water to grow.  Much of California commonly experiences drought conditions and has limited access to water that is allocated through the political process.  California’s Groundwater Sustainability Agencies manage the state’s groundwater resources at the local level.  Certain water basins in the state are required to submit a Groundwater Sustainability Plan discussing how the limited water access will be managed.  Depending on your location, you may need to comply with details in an existing GSP, or participate in the process to develop a new GSP, in order to access the water you need to operate your cannabis business.

In addition to dealing with the GSAs, cannabis cultivators need to comply with California’s State Water Boards, which regulate water quality and quantity issues relating to cannabis cultivation, Specifically, through the Water Boards, the State seeks to ensure that the diversion of water and discharge of waste associated with cannabis cultivation does not have a negative impact on water quality, aquatic habitat, riparian habitat, wetlands, and springs.  Regarding water quality, the State regulates discharges of waste associated with cannabis cultivation, seeking to avoid threats from over-fertilization, pond failure, road construction, grading activities, and domestic- and cultivation- related waste.  Cannabis cultivators may need to obtain a valid water right from the State Water Board if they divert water from a stream, spring, lake, or pond.  

Not everyone bothers to follow the water rules and go through the licensing process.  Recently, residents gathered in Siskiyou County to protest against the trucking of water from local wells to unlicensed cannabis grows, after more than a dozen wells in the area had run dry.  (https://www.mtshastanews.com/story/news/2020/08/24/big-springs-county-ordinance-trucks-marijuana-wells/5626904002/.). The Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors had just passed an ordinance making it a public nuisance to pump water solely to irrigate illegal marijuana grows, but residents reported that the trucks kept coming even after the law passed.  Anyone conducting unlicensed commercial cannabis activities is subject to criminal prosecution and substantial civil fines, and will be barred from owning a licensed cannabis business for five years.
Water for Life Not Pot Farms Protestors

Protestors in Siskiyou County


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This blog is not intended as legal advice and should not be taken as such. The possession, use, and/or sale of marijuana is illegal under federal law.