One of the long-standing problems of marijuana prohibition laws is that it forces people to get “creative” with where and how they grow cannabis.
And this “creativity” can lead to a number of unforeseen, potentially harmful, consequences.
In the U.S., California has established itself as the Golden State of cannabis cultivation.
By far some of the most popular places to illegally grow marijuana in California are its lush coastal forests and remote mountainous locations.
But these illegal grow sites can sometimes come into conflict with indigenous wildlife. According to Scientific American this is exactly what’s happening right now.
Scientists and researchers in California have been piecing together the pieces of a puzzle that they hope will explain why a number of wild animals including black bears, gray foxes, Pacific fishers—”a house-cat-size member of the weasel family”—and a number of others have been getting poisoned lately.
After putting the pieces together, here’s what they’ve come up with: Many illegal cannabis growers use rat poison to deter pests that might destroy their crops. Too often, however, they’re using poisons that have been either outlawed from agricultural use or they’re using it haphazardly.
The end result is that although animals like bears, foxes, and weasels aren’t the intended target of the poison, they’re the ones getting sick and dying at potentially disastrous rates.
In particular, wildlife researchers have voiced concern over the fate of the Pacific fisher, which many have said should be added to the official list of endangered species.
“Trapping and logging going back to the 1800s had reduced the fisher’s U.S. population to a few thousand at most,” Scientific American reports.
“Those threats waned, but a new one has emerged: pesticides used at illegal marijuana farms.”
Not only are poisons used at illegal grow sites killing off Pacific fishers at alarming rates—one study found that roughly 10% of fishers in the U.S. had died after being poisoned by pesticides at grow sites—but other animals are getting sick from eating poisoned rodents as well.
While this situation is certainly alarming for naturalists, experts aren’t blaming marijuana itself for the problem.
“You’re not supposed to be doing agriculture out in the woods,” says Nathaniel Arnold, who works with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“It would not matter what they were growing out there.”
Hopefully the increasing legalization of marijuana will help bring greater oversight, accountability, and regulation to the world of cannabis agriculture, helping to limit the number of costs associated with growing bud.
(Photo Courtesy of themarysue.com)