cannabis drought plan in California
cannabis drought plan in California

California Has a Drought Plan and It Does Not Include Water for Cannabis Growers

What will cannabis growers in California do if we hit a mega-drought?

Posted by:
BostonBakedPete on Monday May 2, 2022

California drought plan cannabis growers

The Summer is a period that many growers dread and cannabis growers are not an exception. The brutal and harsh conditions of the weather make cultivation slow and tiring. This means most farmers will have to make modifications to their growing processes while others rely on external government help. The latter is what many growers in California depend on with programs like the California Drought Plan acting as a buffer for many. There are however worrying minds in many quarters as cannabis could be excluded from this drought plan. Read on as we explore why cannabis could be excluded and what it can mean for cannabis growers in California.

California Drought in 2022

The year 2022 has been very hard on many cannabis farmers within its first three months. The state recorded its lowest rainfall and snow in California within the first three months of the year. These results were given by the State's Department of Water Resources and culminated in the second extreme drought in 10 years. The extreme drought experienced in the state is a by-product of climate change and multiple sectors are on the receiving end. This has prompted the state government to seek measures of maintaining and replenishing water sources in the state.

California Drought Plan

Water is the major limitation during the dry summer and the California Drought Plan is a move by the state to save water during this period. Gov. Gavin Newsom is seeking to use this plan to reimburse farmers for not planting their crops during the dry season. This concept is known as fallowing and it helps both the state to retain water and the soil renew nutrients. The plan involves the state and some of its largest water providers proposing over $268 million upfront for such farmers.

The California Drought Plan is a part of Gov. Newsom's $2.9 billion plan for water quality control. The aim of the Governor's plan achieves a designated annual supply of freshwater for key areas of the state. He hopes to do this while managing and replenishing water habitats, reservoirs, and other water basins. The process of maintenance and restoration will be done through conservative practices such as the fallowing initiative in this California Drought Plan.

The California Drought Plan is targeted to cover an area that lies close to two important watersheds. The watersheds have their source from the Sierra Nevada Mountain range in Northern California. The plan proposes that farmers with water-intensive crops such as alfalfa, rice, and nuts cut their production. To cut their production, these farmers will have to take up the fallowing proposal of the state government and be reimbursed accordingly.

Exclusion of Cannabis from the California Drought Plan

The Drought Plan is the answer to the prayers of many farmers however some are not pleased as cannabis is not covered under it.  Michael Katz, executive director of Mendocino Cannabis Alliance made this known recently when he spoke on the plan. He stated that it’s double standards for some farmers to be covered while cannabis farmers are not. He also mentioned that cannabis growers are faced with a tough reality where they cannot pause operations and still have to bear tax burdens during their period. Katz believes that the implication of this is that many small independent cannabis businesses will be lost as they will be unable to survive.

In its defense, the state through the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) has stated that the policy is still in its developmental stage and there is much to be improved on. Maria Luisa Cesar, spokesperson of the DCC stated that they are still at the preliminary stages of discussion regarding the policy. This means that there are still yet to define the sectors the policy will be allocated to. She also reiterated that the department will assist the administration to attend to the needs of farmers during this drought. In her words, “the department will also explore policies to assist small farmers in line with their responsibilities to the environment”.

The issue between the cannabis farmers and the state doesn’t just end there. The Origins Council which represents about 900 marijuana businesses have stated that they have been calling on the state to enact fallowing policies with no response. The executive director of the organization, Genine Coleman told MJBizDaily that the group has requested for six months with no response insight.

Cannabis Growers in California and Fallowing

While many have identified fallowing as a way out during this period of drought in California, some cannabis growers are yet to get on board. This is bound to be a problem if cannabis farmers eventually get covered under the California Drought Plan. Legal expert Patrick Goggin believes that many cannabis farmers in California are yet to see fallowing as a necessary option. He states that the reason for this is that the challenge currently before farmers are depressed wholesale prices and oversupply.

Another reason why some cannabis growers might not be open to fallowing is that there are different conditions in different places. Some areas are faced with other problems that cannot be tackled by the state’s Drought Plan. Trinity County is one of those regions where farmers are more concerned with economic challenges tied to receiving approvals. Adrien Keys, president of Trinity County Agriculture Alliance argues that many cannabis farmers in the region use individual wells for farming. This means that they make use of limited surface water and so the Drought Plan is not the solution to their pressing needs.

Bottom line

It is obvious that there is still much to be said about the California Drought Plan before it comes into full effect. The truth remains that many cannabis growers in California will be aggrieved if the plan doesn’t cater to them. Nonetheless, different systems and organizations are already looking for the best way to see that everyone is properly catered for during this period.



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