Lawmakers Address Damage of Illegal Pot Grows to the Environment

By McCarton Ackerman 12/12/13

With trash piling up and pesticides entering the water supply, lawmakers have become concerned with mounting environmental damage, while pot growers advocate for state regulation as a solution.

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Ready for illegal planting... Shutterstock

Marijuana might be a plant, but that doesn’t mean it can’t harm the environment. Six California lawmakers have expressed concern about illegal marijuana growing on public lands and trespassed private property, sending a bipartisan letter to the United States Sentencing Commission and urging for more focus on the environmental damage this can cause.

"We are concerned that existing guidelines do not address the long term detrimental threats these operations pose to the environment and nearby communities," read the lawmakers' letter. "We urge you to consider the significant impacts of drug cultivation operations on public and trespassed lands throughout the country and add new emphasis to countering the environmental damages of drug production."

Last October, the East Bay Express reported on the effects that illegal grows have on wildlife. The article referenced a study from the University of California-Davis which claims that 86 percent of fishers in California have been exposed to rodenticides. “The habitat range for fishers also overlaps nearly perfectly with known illegal pot grows on public and private lands,” wrote David Downs.

In 2011, a law enforcement operation in Mendocino National Forest found 56 sites where marijuana was being grown illegally. This resulted in park officials removing 23 tons of trash, 57 pounds of pesticides and herbicides, 22 miles of irrigation piping, 13 man-made dams and over a ton of fertilizer. However, marijuana advocates claim that pot growers had no other option but to take their business to public forests.

"We cannot simply arrest and jail our way out of it," said Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project. "The quickest and easiest way to prevent marijuana from being grown on public lands is to regulate it like alcohol. There is a reason why drug cartels are not producing moonshine in our national forests these days. ... By regulating it we could actually control who is growing it and where it is being grown."

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.