The California pot business is booming, which is great news for marijuana advocates. The bad news is that the boom, like other booms in the past, is decimating the California environment. Pot growers have illegally cut down trees, graded mountains, dumped fertilizer, spread poisons and pesticides and have diverted or used up local water resources in their attempts to keep up with the burgeoning pot industry.

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Scientists examined a 37-square mile area in California just south of Eureka and found nearly 300 farms and 300 greenhouses in the area. These farms use at least 18 million gallons of water from the area, mostly from the Eel River and local creeks. Additionally, growers dumping fertilizer and pesticides into the lowered waters have likely created a toxic algae bloom in the rivers. This threatens the Coho salmon that live in the waters and pollutes the watershed. The diesel fuel, human waste, pesticides, fertilizers and poisons from pot farming are also seeping into the watershed, resulting in a terrible impact on the environment. Rodenticides used to keep rats out of the crops are suspected to have killed many other animals in the area, including the rare Pacific fisher.

The California pot industry is unregulated, which means that farmers work with no oversight, and the fact that marijuana is still illegal under federal law means that most growers work under the radar. The result is a system that has grown largely without direction and without safeguards in place to protect fragile resources. Scientists caution that the damage to the environment would be the same with almost any unregulated crop and isn’t directly related to marijuana specifically, but that oversight is necessary to control the impact to the environment.

via the Los Angeles Times

images © USFS and Coleen Danger