California officials are now accepting concept proposals for a program aimed at helping small marijuana cultivators with environmental clean-up and restoration efforts—and they will be holding a workshop this week to guide people through the application process.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Cannabis Restoration Grant Program was first announced earlier this year, and applications opened last week.
The $6 million in potential funding—which comes from marijuana tax revenue that the state has generated from legalization—must go to government agencies, California nonprofits or Native American tribes who would then work with the growers on the remediation efforts.
Thursday’s online workshop “is designed to review the priorities of this new funding opportunity and help entities of all sizes with the submission process,” the department said in a notice.
Funds “may be used to fund the cleanup, remediation, and restoration of environmental damage in watersheds affected by cannabis cultivation and related activities, and to support local partnerships for this purpose.”
“California’s fish and wildlife are severely impacted by illicit cannabis cultivation practices including unlawful water diversions for irrigation, conversion of lands, poaching, and use of prohibited herbicides, rodenticides, and other environmental contaminants,” the department said. “Currently, the Cannabis Restoration Grant Program has the opportunity to grant funds in support of partnerships to clean-up, remediate, and restore watersheds affected by cannabis cultivation, and related activities.”
The department said grant “priority will be given to qualified cultivators with ownership and/or financial interest in no more than 10,000 square feet of total canopy,” but those involved with larger operations may still qualify.
Applications will be open through December 1, 2022.
Ensuring that cannabis cultivators have the resources to stay in compliance with environmental policies has been a priority for state regulators. And at the federal level, the issue of illicit operators disrupting the environment has also received attention.
An influential House committee said in a report in July that it supports federal law enforcement efforts to deploy drones in California to find illicit marijuana grow sites on public lands. However, it said that support is contingent on resolving issues related to cybersecurity and domestic production.
A related issue that wasn’t addressed in the report was previously identified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, whose inspector general said in 2018 that the Forest Service has often failed to clean up illicit grow sites after they finished chopping down plants.
Back in California, officials are also making millions of dollars available for grants programs to support marijuana social equity initiatives and assist localities in processing pending cannabis business license applications.
The grant offerings represent a continuation of California’s efforts to support the success of the state’s recreational cannabis system—as well as its commitment to using marijuana tax dollars to invest in communities most harmed under prohibition.
In June, GO-Biz said it was awarding about $29 million in grants to 58 nonprofit organizations, with the intent of righting the wrongs of the war on drugs. The funding is being provided through the California Community Reinvestment Grants (CalCRG) program.
Grants are being awarded to qualifying nonprofits to support programs aimed at providing job placement, mental health treatment, substance misuse treatment and legal services for disproportionately impacted communities. The program was first announced in April 2020, and applications for those grants were initially opened in September 2020.
Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.