DROUGHT A BIGGER CONCERN FOR CALIFORNIANS THAN LEGALIZATION
During this time of cataclysmic climate change and California's historic, biblical drought, to say that the cultivation policies Prop. 64 would enact are environmentally irresponsible would be an understatement. And virtually relegating growing to indoors by allowing bans on outdoor cultivation is only half of it.
California's current indoor cultivation industry already creates an enormous carbon footprint, producing greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to adding 1 million cars annually, according to pioneering research by Evan Mills. In Colorado, The Denver Post reports an astonishing 45 percent of Denver's annual increase in electricity usage is attributable to the legalization of indoor recreational cannabis cultivation – and outdoor cultivation is permitted in that state.
California would stand to face a far higher burden on our precious resources, because not only does Prop. 64 effectively relegate personal cultivation to indoors, but, even more unsustainable, Prop. 64 allows corporate mega grows to cultivate an unlimited number of plants. Let that sink in for a minute. That could be hundreds of thousands of plants – in one warehouse. Imagine the resources required to grow hundreds of thousands of plants even in nature. The burden on our resources – particularly our dangerously low water supply – would be astronomical.
“We are on track for having the worst drought in 500 years,” B. Lynn Ingram, a professor of earth and planetary sciences at U.C. Berkeley, told The New York Times. In the Central Valley, California's agricultural bloodline and the epicenter of this epic drought, the dry spell has reached such apocalyptic proportions that CBS says it “could wipe entire towns off of the map.”
Many residents are completely without running water and “living in third-world conditions,” according to a Sacramento CBS-13 News report. “Wells are going dry, jobs are harder to come by and families are already moving, either to different states or even Mexico in search of work.”
Wait a minute: the drought in California is so severe that people are moving to Mexico to find work? Damn.
Elsewhere in the state, several rural communities have recently come within 60 to 120 days of running out of drinking water, threatening the survival of some 40,000 residents. California's “main municipal water distribution system hasn't had enough water to supplement the dwindling supplies of local agencies that provide water to an additional 25 million people,” according to The New York Times. And there's no end in sight.
But Prop. 64 takes no heed of this brewing ecological disaster, allowing corporate mega grows to cultivate an unlimited number of plants, even though cannabis requires an astounding six gallons of water per plant per day. Never mind outdoor grows that have discrete, finite seasons: In the realm of commercial cultivation, with greenhouses and indoor grows, cultivation is perpetual.
Let's put that into perspective. Colorado's Green Dragon dispensary, for example, has a 60,000-sq.-ft. warehouse. Using the RAND Corporation's calculation that one square foot holds 1.4 plants, this location could have more than 84,000 plants growing at any given time. At a rate of 500,000 gallons of water per day, that translates to a jaw-dropping 182 million gallons of water per year. And that's just for one license.
GrowCo, another Colorado company, has two 90,000-sq.-ft. greenhouses, with the potential to grow some 252,000 plants at any given time. That would require over 1.5 million gallons of water per day and result in well over half a billion gallons of water per year – at just one location. The only reason Colorado is not on the brink of environmental catastrophe due to unsustainable water usage is because no matter how big the space, Colorado limits the number of plants a licensee can grow. With Prop. 64 allowing unlimited mega grows, California would be cultivating disaster.
Californians are a population of progressives. We drive more hybrid cars than anywhere else in the country. For an initiative that must win the approval of arguably the most environmentally conscious voters in the union, Prop. 64 woefully misses the mark.
Despite the poll by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) that suggests 53 percent of residents would favor legalization, a more recent study by the PPIC shows that a formidable 84 percent of Californians are either “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about more severe droughts.” Sixty-eight percent consider the water shortage “a big problem,” and 58 percent think the drought “is the most important environmental issue facing California today.” So, while many residents may favor “legalization,” that doesn't mean they would or should vote for Prop. 64, especially in light of the detrimental impact it would have on our environment. Indeed, under the circumstances, being concerned about the state's rapidly diminishing water supply and simultaneously supporting Prop. 64 is a conflict that is both incompatible and irreconcilable.
Keep in mind, the environmental nightmare that Prop. 64 would create would be in the name of “recreation.” You know, “just for fun.” The ecological impact of such unmitigated cultivation – indoor or out – would undoubtedly have far-reaching consequences that could last generations. And in the eyes of California's progressive electorate, it just may spell doom for Prop. 64.