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CALL TO ACTION: RESTORE WATER PROTECTIONS IN CANNABIS BILL SB 100

This is a letter from a broad coalition to the NM House of Representatives. For a PDF of the letter click here:  Cannabis coalition Letter to House 2.15.22

 

CALL TO ACTION: RESTORE WATER PROTECTIONS IN CANNABIS BILL SB 100

Dear House Members,

We, the undersigned, are calling upon the House of Representatives to restore water protections to the Cannabis Regulation Act (CRA). SB 100 (Lopez-Romero) was originally intended to increase plant counts and other “technical” changes. However, a hostile amendment by Senator Pirtle in the Senate Judiciary Committee stripped essential water protections requiring that an applicant have valid water rights as a condition of being granted a license to grow cannabis. We are asking the House to remove the Pirtle amendment and restore existing water protection requirements of the CRA.

We know that these protections are necessary because other states with legal cannabis (California, Oregon, Colorado, etc.) are struggling with illegal water uses. In New Mexico, many new producers mistakenly believe they can:

1) use domestic wells for commercial production,

2) pump surface water from acequias or rivers without a valid water right,

3) use residential water from mutual domestics for commercial production.

OSE Director of Water Resources Allocation Program has recently stated that the CRA’s water validation requirement is working to prevent water theft by cannabis producers and results in less agency resources being expended in the long term:         

  • 85-90% of applicants “have presented invalid water rights, need to reconfigure the water rights or plan to use a domestic well, which is not allowed for agriculture,” Romero advised.
  • OSE also advised that removal of the existing water protection requirement is “going to make it that much more difficult on the agency when we’re already resource-strapped.”

*Source: https://nmpoliticalreport.com/2022/02/15/senate-passes-cannabis-law-changes-adds-new-water-rights-language/

Moreover, the water protection requirements ensure water equity. Tribal and Senior water rights holders in NM are from historically underserved and marginalized communities which will now be put at greater risk of unlawful uses of surface and groundwater impairing their senior water rights. This is an issue of water equity. Requiring validity checks for water actually ensures water equity for rural and tribal communities such as acequias and water providers such as mutual domestics.

Finally, the Legislature has required OSE water rights validation and use oversight for other industries: NM Subdivision Act, specifically Sections 47-6-11, 47-6-11.2, and 47-6-11.4 NMSA 1978; Section 72-12-5 NMSA 1978 pertaining to use of non potable deep aquifers in multiple sectors; and the Mine Dewatering Act, Section 2-12A-5 NMSA 1978.

New Mexico is now in an era of long term aridification, where we need more careful stewardship of our limited water resources and cultural integrity. By removing the water protections, rural entities, such as mutual domestics and acequias, who are entrusted with managing water at the local level, will bear the burden of enforcement. This would put our precious water resources at risk. We are urging you to remove the Pirtle amendment, restore existing water protection requirements, and allow time for a meaningful analysis during the legislative interim.

NM Cannabis Justice Project                                                 Shiprock Traditional Farmers Cooperative

Pueblo Action Alliance                                                            El Chante

National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Ass.-NM   Southwest Organizing Project

National Young Farmers                                                         American Friends Service Committee

New Mexico Acequia Association                                        Tewa Women United

Western Landowners Alliance                                               Yucca

Trout Unlimited                                                                        Los Jardines

Agri-Cultura Cooperative Network                                      Earth Care

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union                                           Black Farmers and Ranchers NM

N.M. Association of Conservation Districts                        Bueno Para Todos Farm

NM League of United Latin American Citizens

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