No Water For You: Obama Administration Moves To Cut Off Water To Pot Growers In Washington and Oregon

220px-US-DOI-BureauOfReclamation-Seal.svg300px-Corps-engineers-archives_bonneville_dam_looking_eastFor months, the Obama Administration has been dealing with the growing revolt among the states over federal marijuana laws. Twenty states and the District of Columbia legalized medical marijuana use over the opposition of the federal government and medical use. Two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized the sale and possession of marijuana. It is a classic conflict between states and the federal government under federalism. Some of us view the states as asserting a classic police power in an area that was left to the states under our federalism principles. Now the Obama Administration has said that it will withhold water from state-licensed pot growers in Washington state and Colorado. The decision by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is particularly problematic given the fact that the federal government has stepped in to take effective control of the water resources in these states and now appears to be using that control to try to coerce states to change their laws to satisfy the federal government.

Dan DuBray, the agency’s chief of public affairs, insists that “[a] a federal agency, Reclamation is obligated to adhere to federal law in the conduct of its responsibilities to the American people.” However, that position is inconsistent with the actions of the Obama Administration in other years. I recently testified (here and here and here) and wrote a column on President Obama’s increasing circumvention of Congress in negating or suspending U.S. laws. The Obama Administration has no qualms about rewriting laws like the ACA or ordering the non enforcement of other laws like the controversy over the DREAM Act. However, when administering a water resource, the Administration insists that it has to actively cut off water in order to indirectly support federal marijuana.

This argument is even less plausible when one considers that the Justice Department has altered its enforcement of the actual drug laws in light of these two state changes. So, the Administration is directly altering enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act but a water agency is actively changing its operations “in a manner that is consistent with the Controlled Substances Act.” Note this policy is not a refusal to make a change of accommodation but a decision to take action in a way to punish growers.

The decision of the federal government to take control of the water resources out West has long been controversial. Many warned that the control of water could result in an attempt to control a state’s internal policies or laws. The Bureau of Reclamation, the nation’s largest wholesaler of water, was created in 1902 to cover 17 states due to the building of federal dams and canals that took control of what was once free flowing surface waters. Part of the Department of Interior, it now delivers water to more than 31 million people and one out of every five Western farmers. In Washington state, that translates to 1.2 million acres of land — much of which is coming from the Columbia and Yakima rivers which once were under state control.

This is the first time in recent memory that the government is using the control as a weapon to punish errant states over its laws. The agency controls two-thirds of the water of Washington state’s irrigated land. Washington is most at risk for that reason (Oregon’s pot farms are only allowed for indoor growing).

Source: McClatchy DC

113 thoughts on “No Water For You: Obama Administration Moves To Cut Off Water To Pot Growers In Washington and Oregon”

  1. Paul S, Don’t have time for a climate change debate today. My garden awaits me.

    1. Dredd – so, you start the debate and then run to garden? Aren’t you afraid of wasting water?

  2. Paul S, Yes, that is true. but climate change’s heat intensifies the drought.

  3. Maybe water rationing will finally get the attention of the climate change deniers, and, of course, they will want the feds to bail them out.

    1. SWM – you are aware that the West and Southwest has a history of major droughts that pre-date any man-made climate change. You can Google the data. Unlike Michael Mann who hides his data on climate “change” this data is easily available to the public.

    1. Dredd – Well, it is hard to respond when Michael Mann hides the numbers. Climate “science” is really a shell game played by paleoclimatologists to get big grant money.
      BTW, is your 8:38 comment directed at me?

    2. Dredd, once again, I have had to delete a comment for violating our civility rule. I take no position on the merits of disagreements on these controversies. I only ask that posters refrain from personal attacks and juvenile name calling. That is not much to ask for adult discourse. If anyone finds that minimal condition to be too difficult or restrictive, I ask that they simply move on to other blogs.

  4. Paul Schulte

    Dredd – the Pope does not get to create sins as he wants, unless he speaks ex cathedra. Sadly, the Pope is another wrong-headed Jesuit, but he can have his own opinion.
    The Paulpul bull.

    1. Dredd – you did not respond to the scientist figuratively burned at the stake. You try to make a play on words, try is the operative word here, but don’t deal with the major rebuttal.

  5. The lack of water (a la drought) is a result of sin according to Pope Francis:

    Pope Francis made the religious case for tackling climate change on Wednesday, calling on his fellow Christians to become “Custodians of Creation” and issuing a dire warning about the potentially catastrophic effects of global climate change.

    Speaking to a massive crowd in Rome, the first Argentinian pope delivered a short address in which he argued that respect for the “beauty of nature and the grandeur of the cosmos” is a Christian value, noting that failure to care for the planet risks apocalyptic consequences.

    “Safeguard Creation,” he said. “Because if we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us! Never forget this!”

    The pope centered his environmentalist theology around the biblical creation story in the book of Genesis, where God is said to have created the world, declared it “good,” and charged humanity with its care. Francis also made reference to his namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi, who was a famous lover of animals, and appeared to tie the ongoing environmental crisis to economic concerns — namely, instances where a wealthy minority exploits the planet at the expense of the poor.

    “Creation is not a property, which we can rule over at will; or, even less, is the property of only a few: Creation is a gift, it is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude,” Francis said.

    Francis also said that humanity’s destruction of the planet is a sinful act, likening it to self-idolatry.

    “But when we exploit Creation we destroy the sign of God’s love for us, in destroying Creation we are saying to God: ‘I don’t like it! This is not good!’ ‘So what do you like?’ ‘I like myself!’ – Here, this is sin! Do you see?”

    (Daily Kos).

  6. Federal Laws are not supreme to State Laws if the federal laws are withstanding to the Constitution. The Supremacy Clause reads,

    “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.”

    Unless I’m crazy, only federal laws that are in pursuance thereof and not withstanding to the federal Constitution can be declared as “Supreme.” Alexander Hamilton tells us in Federalist 78, “There is no position which depends on clearer principles than that every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid.”

    Also, during the state ratification debates, Hamilton said, “…the laws of Congress are restricted to a certain sphere (delegated powers), and when they depart from this sphere, they are no longer supreme or binding.”

    Just for the sake of argument, as some will reference other clause, especially Commerce or General Welfare, Madison said specifically in a Veto of a federal public works bill, that delegated powers strictly limit the interpretation of the clauses to those delegated powers, otherwise such powers would not have been listed in the Constitution,

    “To refer the power in question to the clause “to provide for common defense and general welfare” would be contrary to the established and consistent rules of interpretation, as rendering the special and careful enumeration of powers which follow the clause nugatory and improper. Such a view of the Constitution would have the effect of giving to Congress a general power of legislation instead of the defined and limited one hitherto understood to belong to them, the terms “common defense and general welfare” embracing every object and act within the purview of a legislative trust. It would have the effect of subjecting both the Constitution and laws of the several States in all cases not specifically exempted to be superseded by laws of Congress, it being expressly declared “that the Constitution of the United States and laws made in pursuance thereof shall be the supreme law of the land, and the judges of every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.” …But seeing that such a power is not expressly given by the Constitution, and believing that it can not be deduced from any part of it without an inadmissible latitude of construction and reliance on insufficient precedents.”

    Jefferson said, “On every question of construction of our Constitution, let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.”

    Madison said in Federalist Papers, No. 44, that such usurpation of the Constitution will come from the executive and judicial branches, “…the success of the usurpation will depend on the executive and judiciary departments, which are to expound and give effect to the legislative acts.”

    In addition, the VA System is the best predictor of how ObamaCare will end up, just sayin’.

    1. Tim – all of that is fine, but you get as much justice as you can afford and the US govt prints money in its basement.

  7. Paul,
    The only death lists created under Obamacare are the states that refused to expand Medicare.
    The reason why access to the VA was expanded was because the VA and the Military finally admitted that Agent Orange was a problem and that Gulf War Syndrome was a real issue. Shouldn’t we error on the side of treating all Vets with health problems?

    1. rafflaw – you are being deliberately obtuse. Obama is directly responsible for the wait lists (causing the deaths) of the 40 veterans at the VA hospital in Phoenix and for the wait list at at least 25 more VA hospitals. We do not have a count on more deaths at the new hospitals.

      It is great to treat more vets if you actually are treating them. Obama talks the talk, but he does not walk the walk. Speaking of which Obama refuses to confirm that he did NOT pay back $20 in salary during the sequester, like he promised to do. There are some other Democratic politicians who are dodging the press on this one as well.

  8. What if the water cutoff already drove some of those growers out of business? What should their recourse be?

  9. Karen: I agree the employee should be held accountable, but there could be a civil service rule that protects them from punitive action.

    The federal govt does operate like a seamless unit. I’d be willing to wait to see if there’s a correction in the next few days.

    I strongly favor the marijuana legalization efforts among the states, so I’d be upset if this is allowed to happen

    1. RTC – you seem to confuse appointees (at the will of the President) to regular employees covered by the civil service act. Lois Lerner, for example, is an appointee. She has not civil service protection.

  10. RTC:

    Just to clarify, if, hypothetically, Lois Lerner joined the IRS under Bush, and we have emails between her, Democratic Senators, and top WH officials that prove they were in collusion to target conservative organizations and their donors in order to help Obama in his re-election efforts then you would blame Bush?

    1. Karen

      I retrieved your comment

      Folks, Karen’s comment is above at 11:39

  11. Hollywood studios are run by mega corporations, and like the MSM, is also very liberal. That corporation explanation is lame.

  12. Veterans preferred Bush over Obama as Commander in Chief

    After a backlash, Obama’s and Congress’ cuts to military pensions gets reversed:

    I believe that Congress should cut its own compensation before they touch that of soldiers they send to war, who get paid a pittance. If they want to cut military spending, cut the waste only. Politicians get cushy pensions, raises, and benefits packages, while our soldiers get sent out into the desert to contend with IEDs.

  13. Karen: There is not a word of truth in that, no more than there is on the average Faux News episode.

    Ever notice how the MSM is owned by four or five mega-humungous corporations?

  14. RTC: In the real world, it doesn’t matter who hired an employee. It matters what the employee does and who was his manager when he did it.

    If Clinton appointed someone who did a fine job until last month, when he started misusing a department to get revenge on political opponents, it is not Clinton’s fault. It’s the responsibility of the employee, and every upstream manager who failed to stop him or supported his activities.

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