Marijuana growers in eastern Washington could see their profits dry up due to water restrictions.
In the state’s agricultural region east of the Cascade Mountains, much of the irrigation water is provided by the United States Bureau of Reclamation, which inks local contracts through its district offices.
Since marijuana is still federally illegal, the bureau could be barred from providing services for legal growers in the region. Local districts asked the agency for clarification regarding marijuana water rights in March, however the agency has yet to announce a decision.
“We will work with our water districts once the evaluation is complete,” said Peter Soeth, a reclamation spokesman. Soeth did not give a timeline for the decision.
Currently, Washington has distributed 20 cultivation licenses, and eight of those licenses are for businesses east of the Cascades. If the federal government does not allow these businesses to access federal water, they will have to buy it from local wells, which is more expensive.
The added expense could factor into the overall sticker price of retail cannabis across the state.
At least one cultivator, however, said marijuana is so valuable that it will offset the added costs.
“It’s an inconvenience, not a problem. It’s an expense rather than a real problem,” said Alan Shreiber, who has applied for a cultivation license.