The illegal cannabis trade in California is so tenaciously entrenched that it not only undercuts the legal market but is also responsible for some of the most flagrant water theft in the whole world. The estimated $8 billion illegal marijuana sector uses astonishing amounts of the scarce resource, despite the state legalizing recreational marijuana in 2016.
It has been reported that some individuals haul in stolen water, while others steal it from fire hydrants or dig unauthorized wells. The issue has been made worse by years of intermittent drought in the state. John Nores, the former head of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Marijuana Enforcement Team, described the quantity of water stolen by the illegal marijuana sector as “mind-blowing.”
Nores estimates that it takes a typical marijuana plant 90 to 275 days to mature, and the plant needs up to five gallons of water every day. That’s a lot of water when you consider that some illegal businesses are growing 2,000 to 5,000 plants on average.
Criminals profit from stealing water all across the world, not only in California. A similar course of action also destroyed lagoons in national parks in Spain and put Chilean farmers in danger of going bankrupt. In Brazil, illegal water theft even resulted in the capture of a former mayor.
Nores claimed to have witnessed illegal well drilling and other blatant water theft in northern California’s Siskiyou County, where illegal marijuana cultivation has long been prevalent and drought conditions are among the worst in the state.
As a result, it’s becoming even more difficult for cattle ranchers and hay growers, many of whom have been forced to liquidate their assets or close their doors entirely, said Ryan Walker, a rancher and the head of the Siskiyou County Farm Bureau. Nevada County, which is situated north of Lake Tahoe, is also facing the same issue.
Adnan Anabtawi, general manager of the Mojave Water Agency, recalled that in 2021 at the height of the cannabis water theft issue, authorities predicted an annual loss of up to 4,000 acre-feet of water due to reports of supplies being trucked in or groundwater being forcibly withdrawn from the basin. To put that in context, an acre-foot is approximately 326,000 gallons, which is enough water to immerse an entire football pitch at least a foot into the ground.
According to those who are monitoring the activities, Californian communities have made strides in combating water theft, and the situation has lately improved. However, it’s a challenge that the state will likely continue to face, and it might put the marijuana sector at odds with other industries and crops vying for the state’s meager water supplies.
As the water crisis worsens, licensed growers may need to explore a variety of cultivation techniques, such as indoor microgardens commercialized by companies such as Advanced Container Technologies Inc. (OTC: ACTX), to maximize the value that they obtain from the limited water resources currently available.
NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to Advanced Container Technologies Inc. (OTC: ACTX) are available in the company’s newsroom at https://cnw.fm/ACTX
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