Feds throw new curve to states with marijuana

RENO, Nev. ( & KRNV) -- The U.S. Interior Department said this week it doesn't want federal irrigation water being used to grow marijuana. This policy will impact 17 states, mostly western states.

The practical effects of the policy remain unclear. The Bureau of Reclamation is the agency that provides water to irrigation districts. Pete Lucerno, spokesman for the agency in Washington D.C. said, "Our federal agency is obligated to let the water district that services that city know that providing water for that purpose is illegal under federal law." He added, "If we become aware that federal water is being used for those purposes then we have an obligation to report that to the appropriate people and in this case, that is the Department of Justice."

Nevada's new medical marijuana law allows for businesses to grow marijuana. Obviously, those businesses will need water.

In northern Nevada, sorting out the impact of this policy isn't clear cut because of the complexity of the Truckee Meadows Operating Water Agreement. Simply put, the federal government controls both dams and reservoirs upstream from the Truckee Meadows. However, that water doesn't fall into the same category as "federal irrigation water."

Still, federal sources weren't willing to say there would be no impact in Northern Nevada. Louis Moore, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Reclamation in Sacramento said, "I think it's in stages of development and this is in the very early stage of the discussion." He said, "As we go forward, there will be new questions and approaches to receiving and using water. I think the discussion will require more interpretation as we move forward."

Lucerno notes this issue is new territory for states and the federal government. He speculates this issue will gain some further discussion on Capitol Hill. He said, "I suspect that Congress is probably looking at this very closely as it effects their states."