Checking Out Humboldt’s Pot Crop
As the Emerald Counties struggle with regulating a mostly underground marijuana economy, researchers are attempting to find out the reality of what is happening on the ground so that policy makers can create sensible laws.
Yesterday, the Public Policy Institute of California, which describes itself as a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank, published an article taking a look at cannabis farms and their real world impacts. In a story entitled “Regulating Marijuana as a Crop” the two authors look briefly at growing practices around the state and take a closer look at Humboldt grows.
Here’s a few things they found out. Most importantly, they cite a study which came out on the 21st of April, (we’ll look at this study more closely in an article later this week) which indicates that most Humboldt County cannabis farms use less than one acre of land and grow less than 100 plants. These numbers bolster local cannabis growers claims of mostly being mom and pop farmers.
The authors point out,”Given the small size of most grows, marijuana production currently does not appear be a major driver of deforestation in California, although building access roads may cause erosion and fragment wildlife habitat.”
In spite of concerns about water consumption of these notoriously thirsty plants, the authors also believe that overall marijuana grows consume a relatively small percentage of California’s agricultural use. They point out that most recent “estimates of marijuana’s water use in Humboldt County…suggest that under 2,000 acre feet a year is used for that county’s entire crop. This is enough to irrigate about 400 acres of almonds (for scale, California currently has more than 300,000 irrigated acres of almonds).” That means that the water used for Humboldt County’s cannabis crops equals a little over .13% of that used for the overall California almond crop.
Nonetheless, the authors point out that water to irrigate the crops in the hills can come “from headwater streams that are home to sensitive species, and water use tends to increase in the fall when these watersheds are most stressed.”
And, from looking at the graphic above, it is obvious that some Humboldt watersheds are impacted more seriously by marijuana growing than others. Now, it remains to be seen, if the new regulations being put into effect in this county will change the map above and ease the impacts on certain areas especially on wildlife and water.