The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), and State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) are reminding commercial cannabis cultivators to follow existing state regulations to avoid fines and other administrative penalties.
“Environmental compliance is much less expensive than the penalties for cultivation-related violations,” said Jeremy Valverde, CDFW’s Acting Cannabis Program Director. “The state is here to help commercial cannabis cultivators of all sizes navigate the regulatory process. Cultivators can call or email regulatory staff to learn more about state requirements or attend a permitting workshop, when they are scheduled later this year.”
Under Fish and Game Code, section 12025, civil penalties can be ordered against a landowner or occupant who has violated one or more environmental laws in conjunction with cannabis cultivation. Fines are per day and include up to $8,000 for each unpermitted water diversion and up to $20,000 for each instance where harmful materials may discharge into waters. Both licensed and unlicensed cultivators can be charged. Since 2016, CDFW has filed 10 administrative complaints against 10 cultivators. In September 2019, a trial judge ordered a landowner liable for his tenants’ actions and upheld a penalty of over $680,000.
With CDFA’s new citation authority, illegal cultivators can face fines of up to $30,000 per day, per violation of commercial cannabis laws. Failure to get a license or obey environmental regulations can result in civil penalties and possible licensing actions against the commercial cannabis license. In most cases, a person engaging in illegal commercial cannabis activity can face civil penalties of up to three times the amount of what an actual cannabis license costs, ranging from $3,615 to $233,715 per day.
The State Water Board’s Cannabis Cultivation Policy requires that commercial cannabis cultivators obtain regulatory approvals and follow certain principles and guidelines in order to protect water quality and stream flows. Civil penalties of up to $5,000 per day can be levied for illegal waste discharges to streams, lakes or groundwater, and penalties up to $500 per day plus $2,500 per acre-foot can be assessed for illegally diverting or using water. Additional penalties can be assessed for operating a cultivation site in a manner that does not adequately protect the environment, in violation of the requirements described in the Cultivation Policy.
Those seeking more information about current regulatory requirements can view presentations from a recent online workshop at wildlife.ca.gov/cannabispermitting or attend one of the cannabis cultivation permitting workshops that will be scheduled later this year. Workshop locations and times will be announced on CDFA, CDFW and State Water Board websites as soon as they’re scheduled. In addition, cultivators can email or call any agency with their questions; please see the contact information listed below.
To learn more about CDFW’s cannabis program, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/cannabis or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To report environmental crimes, such as water diversions, pollution and poaching, call the CalTIP hotline at (888) 334-2258 or text information to “TIP411” (847411).
For information on the state’s cannabis cultivation licensing process and the California Cannabis Track-and-Trace Metrc System, please visit the CDFA CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing Division website at calcannabis.cdfa.ca.gov, call (833) CALGROW or (833) 225-4769, or send an email to email@example.com. To report suspected illegal cannabis cultivation or related complaints, call (833) WEED-TIP or (833) 933-3847.
To learn more about the State Water Board’s role in cannabis cultivation permitting, please visit waterboards.ca.gov/cannabis. For permitting and compliance assistance, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (916) 341-5580 (Cannabis Cultivation General Order), or email email@example.com or call (916) 319-9427 (cannabis cultivation water rights).
Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 207-7891