Question: I understand that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) plays a regulatory role in commercial cannabis operations, because poor grow practices harm the environment and California’s fish and wildlife. But are farmers of other legal crops — say, almonds, or wine grapes — held to the same standards?
Cannabis cultivation usually occurs in remote areas, not in locations zoned for agricultural use.
Answer: Any farming activity that has the potential to impact California’s native fish, wildlife and plant resources must comply with the laws and regulations in place to protect them. This is true for farm-to-fork operations and commercial cannabis growers.
Anyone requiring a Lake and Streambed Alteration Agreement from CDFW are subject to the same requirements and fees.
However, there are regulatory differences between cannabis farming and other agricultural industries. For example, commercial size cannabis cultivation requires a state license from the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and farming without it could result in a felony charge.
And, each county has adopted its own land use ordinances that address where, how and if cannabis cultivation can take place.
Along with this, the legislature’s findings in Fish and Game Code section 12029 concluded the environmental impacts associated with illegal cannabis cultivation can have a detrimental effect on fish and wildlife and their habitats, which are held in trust by the state.
This means CDFW is obligated by statute to protect the environment and regulate commercial cannabis cultivation activity.
Another important difference between commercial cannabis cultivation and other agriculture crops is the typical farming location. Grapes and almonds can usually be found in zoned agricultural areas as opposed to cannabis cultivation, which still occurs deep in the hills.
Many threatened or endangered fish and wildlife live in these remote areas, which can be greatly impacted by cannabis farming practices such as water diversions, pesticide use and land clearing.
Between urban encroachment, wildfires and drought years, California’s native fish and wildlife have faced a lot of pressure, and when you add unregulated cannabis farming activities on top of it, it exacerbates the problem.
State regulations help protect the environment and provide consumer safety in this newly regulated market. Other highly regulated activities such as hunting and fishing, driving, or alcohol and spirits production also require licensing and are subject to regulatory compliance monitoring, too.
Status of Roadkill Bill
Question: I was wondering what the status of the law/regulations are that was passed about a year ago making it legal for folks who have hit and killed wildlife with their car to harvest the meat. I have found that some news stories say it’s legal, and others are saying the implementing regulations are still being promulgated.
Answer: At this time, it is still illegal to pick up roadkill for any purpose in the state of California.
The bill you’re referring to is SB 395 (Archuleta, Chapter 869, Statutes of 2019), which authorized the California Fish and Game Commission, upon funding by the legislature, to establish a pilot program to issue wildlife salvage permits to pick up wild game meat that was accidentally killed as the result of a vehicle collision.
The program established by the bill has not yet been funded by the legislature through the California budget process. The Fish and Game Commission cannot develop the regulations, and CDFW cannot implement the program, until the bill is funded.
Once funding is provided, both the commission and CDFW are prepared to start the regulation process.
CDFW did not have an official position on SB 395. If you support or oppose funding the bill, you can reach out to your state representative to provide feedback.
Target shooting outdoors
Question: Is it illegal to shoot targets recreationally along the San Joaquin River as long as you do it responsibly?
Answer: CDFW does not regulate target shooting nor keep track of all the potential target shooting areas available to the public. There are numerous resources available to find recreational shooting areas, including CDFW’s R3 web page.
This issue basically comes down to county shooting ordinances and landowner permission. You will find most cities do not allow discharge of firearms within their city limits, so contact the local sheriff’s office to see what county areas may be open.
Keeping Surf Perch in an Aquarium?
Question: Is it legal to take live finfish caught in the surf such as barred surf perch and place them in a fish tank in a private setting at a private residence?
Answer: No, under a sport fishing license this is not legal in California. You can find the provisions of the marine aquaria pet trade in the California Fish and Game Code, sections 8596-8597. Transporting live finfish is also prohibited as per California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.63.