Legal Marijuana Growers in U.S. Won’t Be Allowed to Use Federal Irrigation Water

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | May 22, 2014 3:55 PM EST

A marijuana home grower works on a marijuana flower in Montevideo in this March 7, 2014. REUTERS/Andres Stapff
A marijuana home grower works on a marijuana flower in Montevideo in this March 7, 2014. REUTERS/Andres Stapff

U.S. marijuana cannabis growers in Colorado and Washington state, despite operating legally, won't be allowed to use federal irrigation water services.

This is because under federal law, growing marijuana cannabis remains illegal.

Simply put, water coming from federal dams cannot be used to grow pot, regardless if they are legal in the states where they are located.

Weed is still considered a Schedule 1 narcotic on par with heroin and other opiates under federal legislation.

"As a federal agency, Reclamation is obligated to adhere to federal law in the conduct of its responsibilities to the American people," Dan DuBray, public affairs chief for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, said.

U.S. Rep Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore criticised the decision.

"Today's decision again brings federal, state, and local law into conflict in a way that creates uncertainty among residents of states that have approved the use of marijuana," Mr Blumenauer told the AP. "The administration needs to give clear marching orders to the various agencies and for them to get in step to avoid problems like this in the future."

The bureau, formed in 1902, is the one which oversees management of federal water resources. Its mandate is to maintain the dams, power plants and canals that help irrigate water across 17 states, including Texas and California as well as Oregon and Washington.

"Reclamation will operate its facilities and administer its water-related contracts in a manner that is consistent with the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, as amended," Mr DuBray said. "This includes locations where state law has decriminalized or authorized the cultivation of marijuana. Reclamation will refer any inconsistent uses of federal resources of which it becomes aware to the Department of Justice and coordinate with the proper enforcement authorities. Reclamation will continue to work with partner water districts and providers to ensure their important obligations can continue to be met."

California was the first U.S. state to legalise medical marijuana in 1996. Nineteen other states followed suit, including the District of Columbia. Colorado and Washington recently approved recreational use of marijuana.

More than a dozen state legislatures are considering legalising such measures this year.

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A marijuana home grower works on a marijuana flower in Montevideo in this March 7, 2014. REUTERS/Andres Stapff
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