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In 2012, Washington and Colorado voters made history when they approved measures to legalize recreational marijuana. Washington Initiative 502 “authorizes the state liquor board to regulate and tax marijuana for persons twenty-one years of age or older.”Since the vote in Washington, the Liquor Board has written a complex set of rules for the state’s new, legal recreational cannabis marketplace. The agency has also set limits on the amount of marijuana that can be grown. And the Board has begun to license growers, processors and retailers.For now, the Obama administration has signaled it will not interfere with Washington and Colorado’s legal pot experiment, unless there is evidence that legal pot is “leaking” to other states or children are getting access to the legal product. The feds are also watching to see if criminal organizations exploit the legal market.The first marijuana retail stores in Washington opened in July 2014.Recreational marijuana is also set to become legal in Oregon on July 1, 2015 after voters approved Measure 91 in November 2014.

Washington Pot Growers May Not Get Federal Irrigation Water


Farmers in Eastern Washington who want to get into the marijuana business may face an immediate hurdle.

The U.S. government is currently deciding whether it will give pot growers access to federal water.

There are only around 20 licensed pot-growing operations in Washington right now. Eight of those farms are east of the Cascades and farmers there are wondering if they’ll have the water to get their first crop to harvest. Federal irrigation districts deliver much of the irrigation water in Eastern Washington.

Alan Schreiber, a Franklin County farmer who applied to grow marijuana, says most of his farm runs on federal irrigation water. Still, he’s not too bothered. Marijuana is so valuable per acre that buying water for a pot farm from a private well is, as Schreiber calls it, "An inconvenience not a problem. It’s an expense rather than a real problem.”

The federal government plans to speak up on water by early May. Next, approved marijuana users will need to navigate their farm’s city and county zoning requirements.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.