Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
North Coast water quality officials are poised to adopt first-of-their-kind regulations governing waste disposal, erosion, chemical use, riparian management and other water-related impacts of widespread cannabis cultivation.
The new rules, set for a vote Thursday by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board at a meeting in Santa Rosa, result from growing concern about environmental damage related to the booming marijuana industry, particularly fragile stream systems and wildlife habitats already degraded by drought.
But it also represents a grand experiment in bringing pot growers out of the dark and into the open, obliging them to operate under a regulatory framework that requires they report their activities and submit to site inspections.
“It’s a milestone,” said Matt St. John, the board’s executive officer. “It’s one of the top priorities for me as the executive officer and for my board members.”
Even Colorado and Washington, which have legalized the recreational use of marijuana and adopted rules for cultivation and consumption, do not have environmental regulations in place, he said.
The new rules include provisions designed to safeguard privacy and make the process more palatable to those who might have an ingrained distrust of public authority, including an allowance for many farmers to register through approved nongovernmental third-party organizations. Board staff have fielded inquiries from individuals and organizations interested in participating as third parties in the program.