Undoing Legalization: Cali County Wants to Charge Home Pot Growers Tens of Thousands of Dollars

Marijuana legalization has been a reality in California for nine months now, which means that obstructionist authorities who don’t like the idea of legal weed have had almost a year to cook up ways to deter citizens from exercising their newfound rights.

In one rural community in Northern California, the solution hit upon has been to charge anyone wishing to grow six plants indoors—an endeavor that can be no more involved or onerous than hand-watering geraniums arranged on a windowsill—up to tens of thousands of dollars or more for the privilege.

Under Prop. 64, approved in November by a very decisive 57.13 percent for to 42.87 percent against, every California resident aged 21 years or older is able to possess up to an ounce of cannabis and grow no more than six plants in their home. (Anyone with a medical cannabis recommendation is allowed to possess and grow more; exactly how much more depends on the rules in their city or county. And anyone wanting to cultivate cannabis commercially—that is, cultivating with the intent to sell, at any level—needs a separate state license.)

Taking a page out of the voter disenfranchisement playbook, one water district in Northern California is planning to charge home growers exorbitant fees. What for, and on what basis? Why, because home cannabis cultivators need a separate water connection, else they’ll foul the supply for everyone else.

Here’s the Union of Grass Valley, California, a small mountain town popular with artists, musicians and other creative types fleeing the San Francisco Bay Area, and (evidently) run by dishonest obstructionists with nothing better to do:

Remleh Scherzinger, general manager of the Nevada Irrigation District, told the community advisory group at its Tuesday meeting that people who grow cannabis in their homes must have another [water] connection. …

He cited possible back flow problems—water dedicated to a grow re-entering NID’s system, contaminating it—as one reason for the requirement. …

“There is a significant threat to the water system by [home cultivation],” Scherzinger said. “It doesn’t matter what you’re growing. If you’re growing corn in your living room, we’re going to sever your connection.”

Asked for an estimate, Scherzinger said it could cost between $15,000 to $50,000 for the additional connection.

Now. Watersheds in rural areas have absolutely been contaminated or sucked dry by massive outdoor grows, many of which would not pass muster for a state cultivation license, even if they applied. Unscrupulous growers tending hundreds of plants have been careless with rodent poison and fertilizers, harming wildlife and contaminating the water. But have home grows fouled municipal supplies—we mean, have they ever? We looked and couldn’t find any evidence—and if it had ever happened, you can guarantee, it would have made massive headlines before now.

If this fantasy weren’t bad enough, Scherzinger also presented some doomsday scenarios: If only 10 percent of Nevada County’s residents decided to grow six plants, the toll on the water system would be as if 2,000 new homes suddenly appeared.

Let’s please look at that fuzzy math, because it is mendacious nonsense.

The average California household may use more than 300 gallons of water a day—more in areas where thirsty lawns and gardens suck down a majority of the water and less in urban areas with no such watering and efficient shower-heads, low-flow toilets and other such conservation-minded improvements.

Even if marijuana plants’ demand did hew to the wild overestimate of between six and 15 gallons of water per day—the upkeep monstrous outdoor plants might need in the heat of summer, but a biblical flood that would drown most hobbyists’ indoor plants in a matter of days—the most profligate indoor grows would increase water consumption by at most a third. That’s significant! But there’s just no rational way to arrive at that figure. Most people won’t grow marijuana in their homes, ever, and those that do will use at most a few gallons a day.

Put it this way: Most home grows have plants living in five or, at most, eight-gallon pots. What’s going to happen when you put even a gallon of water in a pot of that size? Welcome to the swamp. Your plants are drowned. Next time, try a koi pond—which, by the way, needs no such pricey hookup from the water district.

As per the Union, Nevada County supervisors won’t be asked to decide on Scherzinger’s absurd plan until as late as next year. But the episode underscores an annoying—and troubling—reality: Marijuana is legalized and there’s nothing cities and counties can do about it, except pass regulations so onerous that people give up even trying. And since home cultivation is a practice less and less necessary now that cannabis will soon be available in retail stores, regulators are working overtime to craft burdensome solutions for problems that simply do not exist.

In the quest to make the marijuana legalization era as difficult as possible for legalized cannabis, no effort is too silly.

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