For some reason, there seems to be a correlation between environmentalists and the legalization of marijuana, although Obama will not likely make it happen. Perhaps one reason for this correlation is the potential negative effect on our forests from illegal cultivation. From diesel spills to chemical fertilizers, the illegal cultivation of marijuana is polluting our forests and creeks.
Not all marijuana gardeners are polluters, as many grow organically and are responsible; however, the news often reports about the pollution caused by cultivation when busts occur. A recent eradication effort on BLM land in Mendocino County, California is being cleaned by the California Conservation Corps. In addition to a large amount of garbage including pipe and black plastic, the CCC found chemical fertilizers. The Ukiah Daily Journal reports:
In addition to Miracle Grow, the purveyors of the grow camps hauled in bags of copper sulfate that would have been applied, Sharpe believes, to prevent mold and mildew on the plants…When water samples were taken from Standley Creek and tested during a regularly planned test, high levels of sulfates were showing up in the water, Sharpe said. A normal amount of sulfate is considered to be .5 milligrams per liter. According to data, Sharpe said that Sheldon Creek tested at 5.3 milligrams per liter. Hull Creek, also on BLM land, tested at 23 milligrams per liter.
Last year, 1000 gallons of diesel fuel was spilled into Hacker Creek in Humboldt County, California from an indoor grow operation. The diesel was used to run a generator in a remote region of the county. The North Coast Journal describes the environmental devastation and clean up efforts:
As the spill oozed into this lovely area, a greasy film asphyxiated any still water. Diesel smell permeated the creek bed. Though no frogs or salamanders were found dead in the area, many insects were. “Invertebrates are dying,” pointed out Larry Lancaster, Hazmat inspector for the county, at the time. “That means the food supply [for amphibians, etc.] is being diminished.”
In an effort to save the area, a contractor specializing in diesel cleanup rushed to the scene. Within days, three semi-trucks full of absorbent pads navigated the twisting narrow dirt passage, miles from the end of the county road…They removed fuel tanks, tore down a structure, laid absorbent materials, cut roads with cats and dug up soil. They quickly recovered about 300 gallons of the spilled fuel, but it took almost two months to complete the cleanup to the satisfaction of an inspector.
Could legalization solve these pollution problems associated with marijuana cultivation?