Illegal Weed Is Bad for the Environment

March 18, 2014 | Andy Cush

The above video from Mother Jones provides an unusual argument for legalizing cannabis: illegal grow operations can be very, very bad for the environment. The short clip follows Mourad Gabriel, a wildlife ecologist who works to battle the effects of weed-growing in national forests. Along the way, we see copious amounts of garbage strewn around, water diverted from streams to irrigate plants, and species rendered endangered by the rodenticides used on cannabis plants. “I now have to spend 100 percent of my time working on the environmental impacts of marijuana,” Gabriel says. “I would never have envisioned that.”

Puritans would tell you the solution is to double down on enforcement — if the government can curb demand for weed, these operations would be driven out of business. Even if you agree on principle, we’ve already know this approach doesn’t work. “Prohibition hasn’t curbed the desire for cannabis,” Kristin Nevedal of a weed growers trade association in Northern California. “So we really need to look at changing our policy and starting to treat it like agriculture, so we can manage it.”

“The trespass grows are really an issue because of prohibition,” agrees Gary Hughes, executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center. “It is not the growers who are a disease. They are just a symptom. The real disease is the failed drug war.”

(Photo: @North Cascades National Park)