Marijuana Growers The Latest Environmental Enemy

There's an environmentally correct new way to demonize cannabis consumers -- and foreigners.

In a post headlined "Marijuana growers worsening California drought," the Christian Science Monitor's Bright Green Blog (a stoner name if ever there were one) interviews a Northern California police officer, who explains that large-scale cultivators of California's largest cash crop are illegally diverting river and creek water to their operations.

According to Bright Green Blog, "Lt. Noe noted that police have seized more than 500,000 pot plants this season in Mendocino County alone. Each plant requires about one gallon of water per day. California is entering the fourth year of a severe drought, with residents in some areas facing the first mandatory water restrictions in two decades and farms laying off thousands of workers.

“'It’s really affecting our water supply,' said Noe of the illicit growing sites."

Conservationists are also concerned about the dumping of pesticides and other toxic chemicals into the water supply, and a local hydrologists points also out that two local trout streams have dried up due to water diversion.

Police, environmentalists, and the post's writer all blame Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) for despoiling the environment. Local growers, a US Forest Service special agent is quoted as saying, do not have the wherewithal to drag their chemicals deep into the woods, where DTOs grow thousands of plants at a time. Or as the agent puts it, "White guys are lazy."

Bruce Mirken of the Marijuana Policy Project responded put this crazy quilt of jingoism, fear, and name calling in perspective in his comment on the post:

Despite the comments from official sources quoted in this piece, the problem is not marijuana — which, as an agricultural commodity, is pretty unremarkable and not unusually water-intensive. The problem is prohibition, which keeps the state’s immense marijuana industry outside the normal regulations that apply to other farmers and puts it in an entirely unregulated criminal underground.

If we treated marijuana like we treat beer, wine, and liquor, it would be grown by farmers
who — like those who now grow wine grapes or barley and hops for beer — would have to abide by labor, environmental, and water-conservation laws. In California, that includes water allocations that are subject to reduction in drought years. It is a common rhetorical trick for officials to blame the problems caused by prohibition on marijuana, but the real problem is bad policies producing bad (and entirely predictable) results.