Marijuana may be decriminalized in California, but stealing water isn’t and with the summer heating up, cities across the state are thirsting for the millions of gallons of water being stolen by pot farmers.
Illegal marijuana farms are popping up all across Northern California and growers are siphoning off entire streams to water their cash crop.
Marijuana growing has become a financially lucrative crop as four states have legalized it for recreational use and 10 more are considering it. California even has a petition circulating to legalize marijuana.
Shasta County Code Enforcement Officer Marc Pelote told the Wall Street Journal that regulating the water used by the illegal marijuana farms is almost impossible.
“You can stop them one day, and they’ll put in another the next day. They don’t care. It’s all money, money, money.”
It’s hard to estimate the amount of water being used by illegal marijuana growers, but wildlife experts say they’re seeing some small rivers and streams completely dry up.
A new study by the Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates illegal marijuana farms use about 108 million gallons of water a year. Combined with indoor growers that’s almost 55 percent more water than oil companies use in fracking.