As marijuana growing becomes more and more mainstream in Northern California, Emerald Triangle pot farmers are acknowledging the toll pot farming can have on the environment. Fish and Wildlife Department and Water Quality Control Board experts say that marijuana-farm pesticides are poisoning wildlife, and watering systems are bleeding rivers dry. They also say that bulldozing mountaintops to make space for marijuana grows is affecting the entire Northern California watershed, as dislodged soil is clogging salmon streams.
Mexican drug cartels are running some of the most destructive operations, according to an article in The New York Times. By diverting water to their pot farms in the summer, cartels are depriving local runs of Coho and Chinook salmon and steelhead trout of water, and illegal grows on public lands are using d-Con, a rat poison, to keep pests at bay. Local Californian growers have an impact as well. Advocates for legalizing marijuana say that regulation would put an end to environmental abuses.
Marijuana-growing ventures contributed more than $415 million to California’s coffers last year, and that figure will continue to rise. Longtime pot farmers say that as antidrug campaigns have waned and the medical marijuana market has developed, eager new growers are arriving on the pot scene looking to cash in. As old and new farmers look for ways to maximize pot production, using responsible farming methods is imperative.