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April 10, 2014 at 11:46 AM

Water agency deciding on marijuana policy

By Mike Faulk
Yakima Herald-Republic

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is mulling the legality of federal water contracts supporting marijuana businesses, but a spokesman for the agency said no decision has been made.

“At the request of various water districts in the West, Reclamation is currently evaluating how the Controlled Substances Act applies in the context of Reclamation project water being used to facilitate marijuana-related activities,” Peter Soeth, a Reclamation spokesman at the agency’s Denver headquarters, said. “We will work with our water districts once the evaluation is complete.”

The decision will be significant to hopeful marijuana growers in Eastern Washington, where much of the water used for agriculture is provided through contracts with Reclamation district offices. If the agency deems such contracts illegal, marijuana growers in Eastern Washington would have to rely on water sources regulated by municipalities or the state, such as wells.

Yakima Irrigation Project River Operations manager Chuck Garner said local districts asked the federal agency for clarification about a month ago. Garner said they asked for the clarification after local water districts received numerous inquiries from hopeful marijuana growers.

“We don’t know if there’s a formal policy or not that describes how federal water can be used to grow something that’s illegal in the eyes of the federal government,” Garner said.

The state Liquor Control Board has only issued a handful of marijuana grower licenses after receiving thousands of applications. Soeth, the Reclamation spokesman, said he did not know if federal water districts are already providing water to marijuana growers in Colorado, where the licensed growing of marijuana is already legal.

“We’ll work with our water districts once the evaluation is complete,” Soeth reiterated. “It’s not known when that would be done.”

The Ellensburg Daily Record reported Wednesday (http://bit.ly/1lNjbY6) that an attorney for the Kittitas Reclamation District told Kittitas County commissioners the Bureau of Reclamation cannot supply water to marijuana businesses in its service area. Officials with the Kittitas district did not immediately return calls Thursday.

Comments | More in General news, Government | Topics: federal government, irrigation water, marijuana

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