Sen. McGuire’s illegal forestry conversion bill passes state legislature

Source: SFGate

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sen. Mike McGuire’s critical environmental legislation cracking down on illegal forest conversions to cannabis or other agricultural operations passed both houses of the legislature with bi-partisan support and is being sent to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk for his signature, according to the office of the senator.

The senator’s office says SB 1453 is critically important to protect California forestland from illegal clearing to cannabis conversions which decimate watersheds, pollutes drinking water supplies and kills wildlife.

Illegal timberland conversion to cannabis violations have jumped over 200 percent since the passage of the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA) in 2015, according to the senator’s office. Over the last 20 years, thousands of acres of California forestland have been illegally converted.

Illegal conversions of timberland for cannabis cultivation operations has restricted the ability of Cal Fire investigators to pursue rouge cannabis grows, while the current statute of limitations makes it difficult for Cal Fire to take action upon violators, the senator’s office says. Sen. McGuire’s bill extends the statute of limitations for illegal conversions from one year to three years.

“Many in the industry are doing the right thing and becoming licensed. Illegal conversions are still a massive problem and they pollute our watersheds, threaten drinking water supplies, kill wildlife and usher in near irreversible harm to California’s beloved forests,” Sen. McGuire said. “SB 1453 will give Cal Fire investigators and prosecutors the time they need to successfully throw the book at these rogue growers who are destroying our forests and it provides authorities time to address these terrible acts.”

The senator’s office says the bill is supported by the California District Attorneys Association, Sierra Club, Save the Redwoods, The Nature Conservancy and many other groups.

Gov. Brown has until Sept. 30 to sign the legislation into law.

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