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PW water available for pot growers; St. Charles Mesa keeping moratorium

Water supply for pot growers

PUEBLO COUNTY, Colo. - KRDO NewsChannel 13 is learning more about the fight for marijuana growers to keep their water supply.

First, it was the St. Charles Mesa Water District that put a moratorium on supplying water to pot businesses. Now, a second water company is thinking about doing the same.

Marijuana growers like Marisol Therapeutics are facing the fact that water may be hard to find.

"They said it's against federal rules," said Michael Stetler, owner of Marisol Therapeutics.

Marisol gets water from a private company. That company notified Stetler it may stop supplying water to the pot grower. St. Charles Mesa Water District did the same thing in late March.

"Because under federal law it's illegal, we have to make sure our bases are covered so we don't cause an issue, cause an issue for the district," said David Simpson, Manager of St. Charles Mesa Water District.

Simpson said he wrote a letter to the Bureau of Reclamation on March 27. It develops water projects to store and transport water to dry areas like Colorado. He said still waiting for a response.

"Personally, I think I could say I could take all the water the district owns and supply growers and the small portion that I'm using of project water could go here," he said.

While St. Charles Mesa is waiting for a response from the Bureau of Reclamation, Pueblo West Water says it's fine supplying water to marijuana growers right now.

"The Bureau of Reclamation has not given an official statement or position on that. At such time that they would, then we would certainly consider what they had to say," said Jack Johnston, Chief Executive for water enterprise of Pueblo West Metropolitan District.

There's one thing both companies agree on.

"I do think it's a legitimate issue to spend more time and due diligence on. I think that all water enterprises throughout the state are likely to conduct the due diligence to determine what will be the future legal landscape of this," said Johnston.

Simpson said it's complicated.

Rose Davis with the Lower Colorado Region of the Bureau of Reclamation said it's looking into the controlled substances act to see how it relates to distributing water. It will then work with local water districts to supply water to marijuana growers.

Lawyer Hank Worley said, "It seems at least somewhat unlikely that the water district would be in trouble with the federal authorities for providing water to a marijuana grow operation."

Meanwhile, a water marketer plans to make some of his water rights and land available to marijuana growers. John McKowen, CEO of Two Rivers and Farming Co. formed a new corporation, GrowCo, with a greenhouse operator and a medical marijuana grower to help medical marijuana and retail operations.

Two Rivers planned to build reservoirs east of Pueblo, but those plans are on hold for now.

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