Illegal Marijuana Farms Causing Major Water Issues as Western U.S. Deals with Drought

by Courtney Blackann
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Despite marijuana being legal in many states, you still need a permit to grow it. However, some legal Oregon farmers are feeling pretty frustrated after illegal marijuana farms are depleting their water sources.

Though the problem has been ongoing, this season has been particularly hot and dry. Throughout the western United States, wildfires, droughts and hot temperatures have plagued dozens of regions.

Because of this, what illegal weed farmers are doing only adds insult to injury. Essentially, they’re stealing water.

Jack Dwyer is one resident who’s pretty ruffled by this. He and his family moved to a humble, albeit beautiful, section of Oregon to grow food and appreciate what the land offers.

“We were going to grow our own food. We were going to live righteously..,” Dwyer said, according to the Associated Press.

But Dwyer’s been short-changed. His food source and business may dwindle due to the thriving, albeit illegal, marijuana farms.

“Because peak water demand for cannabis occurs in the dry season, when streamflow is at its lowest levels, even small diversions can dry streams and harm aquatic plants and animals,” a study from the Cannabis Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley said.

Where Dwyer’s property runs along Deer Creek, the water source is quickly depleting.

How Illegal Marijuana Growers Get Away with It

So how are these farms getting away with it if it’s so glaringly obvious they’re growing marijuana? Many are operating under false pretenses that they’re simply hemp farms. It’s very difficult to tell the difference between the two without testing. Hemp farms are warranted under the 2018 Farm Bill. However, since the bill, the rise in illegal pot farms has increased dramatically.

Now, residents are wondering how to mitigate the issue and take control.

People like Dwyer and his family have no backup plan if these illegal farms continue to operate.

“I just don’t know what I will do if I don’t have water,” he said. The 75-year-old is struggling. Though he’s created an infrastructure of buried water pipe, a dozen spigots and an irrigation system, he’s unsure how long it can last given the circumstances.

Most recently, the region’s law enforcement officials had to raid a 30-acre farm of illegal marijuana. The 10,000 illegal plants were taking up several 15,000- to 20,000-gallon cisterns.

A few recent city hall meetings in the Oregon town have addressed how to move forward with these issues hurting the area’s agriculture. Not to mention the livelihood of numerous farmers.

“With the illegals, there’s no tracking of it,” said resident Jim Hooper. “They’re just stealing the water from the rest of us, which is causing us to spend thousands of dollars to drill new wells deeper.”

Outsider.com