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Cannabis growers won’t have access to water in Elephant Butte Irrigation District

Cannabis growers won’t have access to water in Elephant Butte Irrigation District

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - On April 1st, the owners of Sol Cannabis are prepared to open their doors and sell marijuana to adults in Las Cruces.

"I'm excited," said Kwamé Ponschock, who co-founded the company with his partner, Brett Burke. "I'm excited to bring something new here."

However, the farmers can't irrigate their crops with water from the river. Marijuana might be legal in New Mexico, but it remains illegal at the federal level.

Because Elephant Butte Irrigation District is a federal reclamation project, cannabis growers will not be able to utilize surface water in Doña Ana County.

"Surface water can’t be used to grow marijuana because the feds have not adopted the same policies that the states have," said Gary Esslinger, the treasurer and manager of the district. "We could irrigate hemp because it was not considered illegal. Marijuana is a different topic."

Sol Cannabis leases land in southern Doña Ana County that has had grandfathered water rights since 1909. The company has decided to pump groundwater for their outdoor grow, but Ponschock said they will do so mindfully with respect to the natural resource.

"We feel incredibly lucky because there are a lot of people still fighting to get those rights," Ponschock said. "Water is our gold, and it has to be tracked and traced by any means possible."

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Kate Bieri

Kate Bieri is a former ABC-7 New Mexico Mobile Newsroom reporter and weekend evening newscast anchor.


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