Last week’s paramilitary raid of California’s Emerald Triangle resulted in the seizure of nearly 10,000 marijuana plants. Yet law enforcement continues to claim the raid was primarily driven by environmental crimes (not drug crimes) associated with cannabis farming in the region. As Mother Jones reported, the legalization of marijuana, along with California’s drought may increase these types of raids. In other words, the raid was about the environment, not getting stoned.

Police have cited evidence such as the claim that 500,000 gallons of water were being taken each day from the Eel River, which has mostly dried up in recent years. Hezekiah Allen, director of the Emerald Growers Association, doesn’t think that’s the case: “This isn’t about the environment; this is about business as usual.” Allen also challenged law enforcement’s water use estimates, citing extensive reservoirs at raid sites that could act as eco-friendly ways of storing water during the grow season.

The raid, however, is a clear indicator that once pot is legalized in California, cannabis farmers will be subjected to increased agricultural regulation and inspections. Allen believes growers can promote sustainability by cultivating drought-tolerant Kush varieties from places like Afghanistan, and irrigating with water they’ve stored. He also said that marijuana cultivation is one of the most adaptable and efficient ways of creating revenue for small farms.

The recent raid will go down as one of the most publicized instances of marijuana being framed as an environmental crime. It could also be the future of how the burgeoning legalized marijuana business is treated in California.


Photo via Flickr user Bert Kaufmann