Feds say no to marijuana growers in Colorado, Washington using their water

The ruling may come as a nuisance to pot growers, but many say they expected the decision and are making alternate arrangements.
By Ananth Baliga  |  May 20, 2014 at 2:57 PM
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WASHINGTON, May 20 (UPI) -- The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said Tuesday that it will not allow any pot growers to use federally-controlled water for growing marijuana.

This decision could come as a big blow to Washington state and Colorado, especially the former where the federal agency controls the water for two-thirds of the state's irrigated land. Colorado will be less affected, as it only allows indoor pot farms.

"As a federal agency, Reclamation is obligated to adhere to federal law in the conduct of its responsibilities to the American people," said Dan DuBray, the agency's chief of public affairs.

DuBray said the agency would conduct its operating in a manner consistent with the Controlled Substances Act, which still bans marijuana. He added that this ruling would apply to the 17 Western states it serves, including those states that have decriminalized the cultivation of marijuana.

Washington state officials seems to have anticipated the agency's ruling and have been discussing other means to get water to pot growers. Joye Redfield-Wilder, spokeswoman for the Washington state Department of Ecology, said last month that since most of the farms are expected to be relatively small, growers can drill their own wells or tap into a city water supply.

Alan Schreiber, a Franklin County farmer who has applied for a license to grow marijuana, said that growing marijuana is so lucrative that it will not deter growers who will find a way around this ruling.

"This is an annoyance and a nuisance but I can assure you -- I can assure you -- they will find water for this," Schreiber said.

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