As part of the application process for recreational licensing, the OLCC will be requiring producers to provide proof of their legal access to water for growing cannabis (a water right or access to a public water supply). This would not be a problem of itself, but it reveals a serious inconsistency in Oregon water law.
Obtaining a new water right varies from difficult to impossible. However, Oregon law allows groundwater to be used for certain purposes without a water right. These purposes include:
- Use of 15,000 gallons a day for your house (a ridiculous amount of water) AND
- An unlimited amount of water for your cows, pigs, chickens, peacocks, manatees AND
- Watering 1/2 acre non-commercial yard or garden AND
- 5000 gallons a day for a single 'commercial or industrial' purpose
The catch is that growing plants for commercial purposes as part of the horticulture industry is not considered by the Oregon Water Resources Department to be a 'commercial or industrial' use of water. It is hard not to notice how inconsistent this law is... you can't even write about it without engaging in doublethink.
The same issue has come up in Washington in the past, and was resolved in favor of allowing 5000 gallons a day to be used for commercial irrigation. http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wr/caselaw/images/pdf/kimvpchb.pdf
My suspicion is that the only way to fix this in Oregon is going to be a lawsuit. Maybe affected growers can put together the funds to fight this one.