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California Will Use Marijuana Tax Dollars To Support Cultivator Environmental Clean-Up, State Announces

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California officials on Thursday announced that they are soliciting concept proposals for a program aimed at helping small marijuana cultivators with environmental clean-up and restoration efforts.

Applications for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Cannabis Restoration Grant Program will be released this fall and remain open through the spring of 2023.

Rather than going directly to cultivators, however, the $6 million in potential funding—which comes from marijuana tax revenue that the state has generated—must go to government agencies, California nonprofits or Native American tribes who would then work with the growers on the remediation efforts.

“We expect our new qualified cultivator program will help with remediation projects that may be unaffordable for many smaller cultivators, and also promote environmentally sustainable practices,” Jeremy Valverde, CDFW’s cannabis program director, said in a press release. “We hope this support will help cultivators progress from provisional to annual license status.”

Peggy Murphy, an economic development specialist in Humboldt County, said the program is “a great opportunity to assist our local small cannabis farms in overcoming the financial barriers that many face on the road to compliance.”

“I look forward to hearing more about this funding opportunity, participating in the solicitation process and helping members of our cannabis community access this valuable resource,” she said.

CDFW offered some guidance on the application process for its remediation initiative during a workshop in April.

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.

Also in July, Rep. Doug LaMalfa’s (R-CA) office released videos showing him teaming up with local California police to bulldoze illegal marijuana grow sites.

The congressman, who has consistently opposed marijuana reform legislation in Congress, said he participated in the eradication effort to highlight the environmental consequences of illicit grow operations, organized crime and the labor issues associated with the sites.

LaMalfa has given no less than eight House floor speeches in recent years urging the federal government to provide additional resources to help states get rid of illicit marijuana grows. And he’s also filed legislation to give resources to law enforcement to eradicate illegal marijuana grows on public lands, increase fines and penalties for such cultivation and establish a fund to restore land damaged by that activity.

He also recently introduced an amendment to spending legislation for the 2022 fiscal year that would transfer “$25 million from the Environmental Programs and Management enforcement activities account to the National Forest System account for enforcement and remediation of illegal marijuana trespass grow sites on federal lands and for the clean-up of toxic waste and chemicals at these sites.”

Meanwhile, California announced in June that it is awarding about $29 million in grants funded by marijuana tax revenue to 58 nonprofit organizations, with the intent of righting the wrongs of the war on drugs.

The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) is issuing the funds, which will be provided through the California Community Reinvestment Grants (CalCRG) program.

California officials announced late last year that grant applications were being made available to promote public health and economic justice for communities disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.

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Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

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