They may be the only ones who can do it. State agencies seem paralyzed by the prospect of standing up to hardened criminals - and that means legal people will remain the focus, which isn't fair. With marijuana increasingly becoming legalized, proponents are now going to run head on into the same government they wanted to take action on their behalf. There are going to be laws and quality standards and inspections and taxes and fees. That's all fine. What will be harder to escape is the regulations on pollution. While marijuana growers endlessly debate the best water to grow their plants, they don't think much at all about the waste water going out at the end. But they should, if they care about the environment. And it will get them into trouble.
Here in Sacramento, the government would love to go after marijuana farmers - but they don't have the military manpower to do it safely. The image that marijuana users portray about themselves is radically different than the reality of pot generation at the supply side; they are criminals, armed and dangerous.
‘‘We simply cannot, in good conscience, put staff in harm’s way,’’ Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board Executive Director Paula Creedon told the Associated Press. Creedon is refusing to enforce laws because these are not home growers, they are Mexican cartels destroying forests and poisoning the water supply and they do not care about anyone. They are not growing marijuana to help with glaucoma, they are growing it to get rich. Overuse of pesticides and herbicides is rampant.
But that's the problem. An honest, ethical farmer is going to get intimidating armed officers on their doorstep but actual criminals flouting the law are avoided - because criminals have big guns too. Activists will harass logging companies, even if they are scientifically removing trees that are going to prevent a lot of wildfires, but how many activists will stage a sit-in where criminals really damage the environment? The government won't go after actual criminal polluters and neither will environmentalists.
Butte County Supervisor Chairman Bill Connelly told the AP that the water quality board was not applying the law equally.‘‘My concern is that legitimate business people get harassed (by the agency), but illegal people will not be harassed because they get a pass,’’ he said. ‘‘They go after the timber industry and farmers.’’
So the regional water boards, which are tasked with enforcing both federal and state laws, only go after soft targets that are doing far less damage to the environment.
The data is there should the government opt to prosecute criminals. Scientists can see what is happening in waste water, and not just for illegal farming but for illegal drug use overall.
So even in areas where drug arrests and surveys don't really tell the whole story about drug are prevalence, sewage epidemiology can. It is easy to know the real drug usage of communities by analyzing their water.
All kinds of excreted drug residues stick around in toilet water. So if you think cocaine usage in Milan really goes up on weekends, that's one thing, but there is a way to know (and it does).