6 April 2017
Environmental legal issues are beginning to pop up wherever the crop is being grown on an industrial scale.
This article about industry development of cannabis in the desert towns of Southern California bring the issues sharply into perspective
California desert towns become haven for a new crop: marijuana
In the race to meet California’s demand for newly legalized recreational marijuana, the Coachella Valley is blooming fast as the industry’s new farming hub. Trouble is, the region also suffers severe groundwater depletion, a problem that could be worsened by the popular crop.
Leading the pack is Desert Hot Springs, a city of 28,000 people that has struggled in the shadow of Palm Springs for decades. As the city tilted toward municipal bankruptcy in 2014, it decided to embrace marijuana as a revenue source. Voters approved local ballot measures allowing the city to tax marijuana dispensaries and growing operations, and the city reclaimed a vast tract of mostly vacant industrial land to allow indoor marijuana cultivation.
But little has been said about water demand. Despite a long history of groundwater overdraft in the region, Matas said he’s not concerned.
“An 18-hole golf course uses four to five times the amount of water one of these large cultivators would use,” he said. “We don’t think it’s going to impact our aquifers.”
Local environmental groups are withholding judgment as they watch the industry unfold.