Pubdate: Mon, 06 Jun 2016
Source: Daily Californian, The (UC Berkeley, CA Edu)
Copyright: 2016 The Daily Californian
Author: Ellen Komp


Amber Norori's oped on April 19 ("Legalization of marijuana could 
promote drought alleviation") contains many fallacies, leading the 
author to false conclusions.

She writes, "The average cannabis plant needs 6 gallons of water a 
day and has an average 150-day grow cycle, so for a medium sized grow 
with about 500 plants, that would be a total of 450,000 gallons for 
one harvest of one plot. To put this water use into perspective, the 
amount of water needed to raise cannabis is double the amount of 
water needed to grow grapes."

Cal NORML examined the 6 gallons/day figure, which was not measured 
or calculated by Fish & Wildlife or any other agency, but merely 
extrapolated to from an early, incomplete estimate. Cal NORML did a 
study and put the figure at 2.3 gallons/day, but not for the entire 
150-day cycle.

The real question, however, is yield. While cannabis, acre for acre, 
may use more water than grapes (depending on planting density), 
UNESCO estimates that 26-29 gallons of water are required to produce 
a glass of wine. By contrast, we estimate that the water needed to 
produce one joint of marijuana is somewhere between 1/6 and 1/2 
gallon. Therefore, if Californians care about the drought they should 
put their wine aside and light up a joint instead.

Ms. Norori also talks about increased acreage used for marijuana 
cultivation. But let's put that into perspective. In 2014, the USDA 
reports that the total acreage of wine grapes grown in California was 
615,000. Our estimates for total acreage used for marijuana is 
800-3000, or just 0.05% of the acres used for wine grapes.

As far as total water consumption in the state, alfalfa is the top 
water-guzzling crop at over 5 million acre-feet used yearly. An 
estimated 70 percent of alfalfa goes to feed dairy cows and, by one 
estimate, California is exporting 100 billion gallons of water a year 
to China yearly in the form of alfalfa hay.

Almonds use about 3.29 million acre feet of California's water 
yearly; rice uses 2.8 million, and grapes 2.2 million. Marijuana? 
About 12,000 acre feet. Yet that crop is to blame for the drought?

There have indeed been localized problems involving marijuana 
cultivation in streams critical to fish populations. However, again, 
the wine industry has been much more damaging on a larger scale 
throughout the state as it has rapidly expanded its acreage used. 
It's even legal for vineyards to use extra water to keep their grapes 
from freezing when needed.

At a state hearing held last year in the California Assembly Joint 
Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture, all the water and fishery 
experts talked about problem regions other than the Emerald Triangle, 
but all of the law enforcers talked about nothing but that region. 
John McManus of the Golden Gate Salmon Association said that although 
there are salmon on the Eel and Klamath rivers, "our bread and butter 
is from the Sacramento Valley," which provides for much of the ocean 
salmon fishing in California and Oregon. The water from that valley 
is diverted to rice paddies and huge nut and fruit orchards owned by 
folks like Stewart Resnick with a lot of political clout to keep the 
flows heading their way while everyone blames poor little pot instead.

Most of the estimated 50,000 marijuana farms in California are quite 
small, and while Cal NORML is certainly in favor of reasonable and 
meaningful regulation of commercial cannabis cultivation, let's be 
fair about it. Wild accusations like those repeated in your paper are 
leading to much stricter regulations on marijuana farms than on other 
crops, and if that continues it will force the market towards large, 
industrial-sized farms that will cause more damage to the environment 
and the economy.

Ellen Komp

Note: Ellen Komp is the deputy director of California National 
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom