Colorado Water Court Eyes ‘Right’ To Grow Marijuana

A water court case in Colorado’s high country could create new policy that impacts the fast-growing marijuana industry in the Mile High state, the Aspen Daily News is reporting in conjunction with the Aspen Journalism non-profit journalism site. The report explains that a local marijuana cultivator, which works with a local dispensary, applied in 2014 for water rights for between 2,000 to 3,000 pot plants in a 25,000 square foot facility.

Reporter Brent Gardner-Smith continued that “… in response to the High Valley Farms application, a water court referee, who initially reviews applications, asked High Valley to answer the question of whether a water right to grow marijuana in Colorado can be “lawfully” granted when the plant is illegal under federal law. Other marijuana-growing operations in Colorado have gotten their water by using existing water rights, not by applying for new rights specifically to grow pot, as High Valley Farms has done. For example, a grower might have bought land that came with water rights, or may have leased water from a district or city with existing water rights.”

The report added that, “… whether the High Valley Farms case implodes the pot industry or not, the case is on track to set legal precedent.” Pro-marijuana advocates worry that the water court could consider growing to be “unlawful” under federal law, raising doubts about the recent state constitutional amendment legalizing pot not just for medical use but recreationally as well. One of the issues is whether cultivating pot is “beneficial” use under state law.

See the report via the Aspen Daily News here:

Lawsuits Defining Marijuana Policy In California And ‘Legal’ States

While the Golden State is not among the “legal” states like Colorado and Washington, it continues to stumble toward a more permissive marijuana policy via civil litigation. An example is the recent Fresno-based case where a state appeals court ruled that growing medical marijuana is not a crime, but more of a civil infraction if it violates zoning laws. The Oakland-based East Bay Express reported that the case is precedent-setting for the rest of the state.
The report explains that “…. Fresno enacted one the state’s worst bans in 2014, prohibiting nearly all medical cannabis activity as nuisances or misdemeanors.” The resulting lawsuit, the report notes, “… went to the Fifth District Court of Appeal, which ruled that Fresno’s bans are valid under zoning powers, but medical pot growing isn’t a crime. It’s more like having a barking dog or playing loud music late at night”
The report also notes that public lands managers predict some 40,000 marijuana farms will be created in California and also checks in with marijuana policy in the “legal” states.