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Cannabis Cultivation Program

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A permitting process for commercial cannabis cultivators is expected to be in place in January 2018. Please sign up to receive cannabis program updates by email by subscribing online: Cannabis Cultivation or contact the Central Coast Water Board at 805-549-3159.

Until a permitting process is in place, all cannabis cultivators are expected to take the environmental measures listed below.


In October 2015, the Governor signed into law the California Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA), which consists of three bills (Assembly Bills 243 and 266, and Senate Bill 643) that created a licensing and regulatory framework for medical cannabis. In November 2016, California voters voted in favor of Proposition 64, which permits non-medical use of cannabis for adults over the age of 21. The passage of this new legislation regarding cannabis use, distribution, manufacturing, cultivation and transportation brings with it new regulatory requirements.

Cannabis cultivators are now required to obtain a state and local cultivation license and must meet all state and local environmental regulations including the Water Code, Basin Plan, and Clean Water Act. Cannabis cultivation can cause significant environmental damage, including discharges of polluted wastes to surface water and groundwater, erosion and sedimentation, and illegal diversions of surface water. The environmental provisions of MCRSA and Prop 64 are more important now than ever to limit environmental degradation associated with cannabis cultivation as the new legislation will bring existing cultivators into a regulatory framework and new cultivators will join the growing market.

Central Coast Water Board Cannabis Program Overview

The Central Coast Water Board regulates discharges from irrigated agricultural lands to limit environmental damage associated with commercial crop production. This applies to owners and operators of irrigated lands used for the commercial crop production of cannabis.

Central Coast Water Board and the State Water Resources Control Board has not yet adopted a permit addressing discharges of waste resulting from cannabis cultivation and associated activities, as contemplated by section 13276 of the California Water Code (added to the Water Code by the 2015 Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act). A permitting process is expected to be in place in January 2018; until then we expect that all cannabis cultivators will take the following environmental measures:

  • Only divert surface waters in compliance with state laws and regulations.
  • Protect surface waters from erosion impacts due to site development, maintenance, and cultivation.
  • Install and maintain stream crossings only in compliance with Department of Fish and Wildlife laws and regulations.
  • Protect surface waters, wetlands, and riparian areas by maintaining natural inflows and keeping nutrients, pesticides, and herbicides from entering them.
  • Implement irrigation and nutrient management practices to prevent discharges of nutrients to surface waters and groundwater.
  • Use pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals only in compliance with all local, state, and federal laws and in a manner protective of human health and the environment.
  • Keep petroleum products and other chemicals contained.
  • Properly manage cultivation-related waste, refuse, and human waste.

Related Links


Leah Lemoine
Central Coast Regional Water Quality
Control Board – San Luis Obispo
Phone: (805) 549-3159

State Water Resources Control Board
Office of Enforcement
Phone: (916) 341-5272