According to experts, illegal weed growers are ruining the forests in California. In fact, some experts say that the amount of dangerous fertilizers, pesticides, and poisons used at grow sites is far higher than anyone thought.
Are Weed Growers Ruining the Forests in California?
Ecologist Mourad Gabriel has become one of the leading researchers studying the ecological costs of illegal weed growing. He stumbled into all this when he was studying the Pacific fisher.
Fishers are closely related to weasels. They are dying out in northern California. In fact, there are now fewer than 500 of them in the region. Back in 2009, Gabriel began finding dead fishers that showed signs of poisoning. After looking into it, he eventually linked their deaths to illegal cannabis farms.
He concluded that the fishers were dying from toxic runoff. After studying it more, Gabriel found that illegal growers use a variety of illegal and harmful chemicals. Sometimes it’s fertilizers and pesticides. Other times it’s poison to keep animals away.
One way or another, these chemicals contaminate large portions of California’s wilderness. They pollute the land where the farm is located. But they also get into rivers and streams. When that happens, the chemicals spread and can quickly contaminate huge portions of land. Additionally, these chemicals can also contaminate the weed that people buy and consume.
More Pollution Than Previously Estimated
Now, Gabriel said that the pollution caused by illegal grow sites is far greater than anyone thought. He told Reuters that California’s forests now have 41 more times solid fertilizers and 80 times more liquid pesticides than a 2013 investigation previously estimated.
To be more specific, he said that federal forest land in California has been contaminated by 731,000 pounds of solid fertilizer. On top of that, there are 491,000 ounces of concentrated liquid fertilizer and another 200,000 ounces of pesticides.
California is a hotbed for weed growers. More than 90 percent of all black market weed farming happens in California. In fact, there’s so much growing in Humboldt County that it’s gotten the nickname The Emerald Triangle.
Many growers have been charged with environmental crimes. Along with California, this has happened in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington. It can cost up to $100,000 to clean an illegal weed farm. In California alone, it could cost $100 million or more to clean all the pollution caused by illegal farms.
Final Hit: Are Weed Growers Ruining The Forests In California?
One of the big questions is if legal weed will solve these problems. On the one hand, a legal market will allow people to openly grow weed. It will also be easier to regulate it.
But on the other hand, many experts say the black market will not go away after legalization. California has had a legal medical marijuana program for years, yet black market growth has remained strong. Similarly, the illegal weed market in Oregon is still active, although recreational weed became legal in 2015.