Enormous New Water Fines for Marijuana Farmers in California

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Enormous New Water Fines for Marijuana Farmers in California

Guns and badges on cannabis farms are increasingly being replaced with pens and clipboards, as regulations take over where prohibition failed.

Today, the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board announced a notably huge fine for water quality violations against a property owner in rural California.

Christopher Cordes and contractor Eddie Axner Construction, Inc., face $297,400 in liability for large-scale grading causing actual and potential harm to surface waters in the Ono area of Shasta County. The reason for that grading? Growing cannabis.

Cordes purchased and developed property in the Ono area for the purpose of growing marijuana. The development involved the unpermited grading and terracing of approximately 3.8 acres and 1.5 miles of roads that resulted in numerous discharges of highly erodible sediment and the unauthorized placement of fill into tributaries of North Fork of Cottonwood Creek in violation of the Clean Water Act and the California Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act.       

“The failure of Mr. Cordes and the contractor involved in this matter to obtain the necessary permits prior to developing the property for marijuana cultivation resulted in severe impacts to water quality.  The land grading activities could have been completed in a manner that would have avoided violations to our water quality protection laws and regulations,” stated Clint Snyder, Assistant Executive Officer for the Central Valley Water Board, in a release. “The penalty adopted by the Board reflects the egregious nature of these violations and the importance of holding all involved parties accountable.” 

The Water Board received $1.8 million and 11 positions in 2014 to create a multi-disciplinary Marijuana Task Force, and clamp down on water violations amongst cannabis growers. But it’s not the scorched-earth policy pot farmers have faced in years past. The Water Board is taking a carrot and stick approach, working to permit compliant farmers, while punishing egregious, unrepentant violators.

California has the nation’s largest cannabis industry, and is the nation’s leading supplier of cannabis. Americans consume an estimated 2,500 – 5,000 metric tons of the botanical drug per year, according to RAND.

A bill to expand the Water Board’s pilot program to the entire state passed the Assembly on a 60-15 vote June 3.

Story by David Downs at Smell The Truth. Check out Smell the Truth for all the latest cannabis news and features.