California is descending into a massive drought, and the agribusiness sector is pointing a lot of fingers, but surprisingly, at itself.
In the Emerald Triangle of Northwest California, cannabis producers are turning to streams and small watersheds in effort to source water for their crops. Findings that implicate small and legitimate cannabis operations have suggested the illegal siphoning of water from streams, rivers, and nearby vineyards in an effort to provide water to marijuana crops across the region. Growers have remained willing to cooperate with government officials, which include a special armed force charged with the task of finding cannabis farms sourcing water illegally. The situation has revealed the inadequate integration of cannabis into the practices and institutions of agribusiness, with a lack of policy surrounding the rapidly growing industry.
Agriculture accounts for approximately 80% of California’s annual water usage. Despite the ‘restrictive’ measures placed on water consumption, the powerful agribusiness lobby has had no problem keeping players in the industry afloat. With the political support of Governor Jerry Brown, producers of almonds, lettuce, tomatoes, and wine grapes have not been affected by these restrictions. However, with water reserves steadily depleting, cannabis producers are forced to turn to alternative, and mostly illegal, sources of water.