PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A new bill passed by the House Committee on Agriculture, Land Use, and Water aims to cut off Oregon’s illegal cannabis operations right at the source by regulating growing water.

If enacted, House Bill 4061 would grant Oregon regulators authority over water hauling practices and would require growers and water-haul companies to keep and prepare records for a minimum of 12 months for the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD), as needed.

Additionally, the bill would criminalize the use of pumped groundwater to irrigate illegal cannabis grow operations.

The legislature’s summary of the bill outlined the urgent need to address the growing elicit Cannabis Market along with its many impacts on Oregon residents, stating, “Illegal cannabis operations are using surface and groundwater without water rights, depleting limited water resources for legitimate agricultural, recreational, residential, municipal, and other uses.”

Authorities destroy plans in an alleged illegal marijuana grow operation in North Plains, Oregon. (Courtesy: Washington County Sheriff’s Office)

Committee chair, Representative Ken Helm said, though the proposed legislation is focused on water, HB 4061 is a component “of a broader conversation the legislature is having on illegal cannabis issues.”

The bill passed the committee on Feb. 14, with an adopted -4 amendment, which outlined a list of information Water Haulers would need to record, along with penalties should the supplier fail. 

The amendment, including a list of proposed regulations and penalties, can be viewed here.

Included in the recent amendment is a clause forbidding water suppliers from hauling water to grow sites “for plants in the plant Cannabis family Cannabaceae,” if the operation is not registered with the state or the amount of crop exceeds state limits.

In a statement to KOIN 6 News, Helm said, “This bill provides new tools to help identify and deter illegal cannabis operations and theft of public water resources.”