Marijuana Farms Endanger California Wildlife

The rise of use of medical marijuana in California has (none too surprisingly) set off a huge increase in marijuana cultivation that, whether growers know it or not, is causing serious damage to the state’s environment and wildlife.

Unregulated in California and illegal under federal law, marijuana was legally approved for medical use in the state in 1996. But in the latter half of 2011 and earlier this year, the state shut down at least 500 dispensaries, charging them with violating federal law and state law, according to which operators must be primary caregivers to patients and distribute marijuana only for medical conditions. One U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of the state emphasized that the intent is to crack down on “large commercial operations that are generating huge amounts of money by selling marijuana in this essentially unregulated free-for-all that exists in California.”

Marijuana Farms: The Toll on Wildlife

State scientists have found that, by directing some 18 million gallons of water from rivers to water marijuana plants, farmers are thwarting efforts to recover endangered coho salmon and other threatened fish, says the Los Angeles Times. Scientists also suspect that runoff from fertilizers and excess potting soil could, along with a reduced river flow due to diversions of waterways, be the reason for outbreaks of cyanobacteria (toxic blue-green algae blooms) in North Coast waterways in the past ten years.

A number of fishers, a rare forest carnivore, have been found dead from rat poison used by marijuana growers in Humboldt County and near Yosemite. Scientists are also finding evidence of carbofuran, an insecticide that is lethal to bears and to humans in small doses.

Bigger Farms Consume Water From Rivers and Creeks

With more and more marijuana available and a glutted market, growers have been increasing the size of their crops to make a profit and cutting huge clearings in forests. By using Google Earth, Scott Bauer, the California state scientist in charge of the coho salmon recovery program under the Department of Fish and Game, found a four-acre area cleared contain 42 greenhouses. As he notes, if each greenhouse holds 80 plants, each of which use about five gallons of water a day, the whole operation would need some 2 million gallons of water in the dry season.

Only 1 percent of growers gets a permit to obtain water legally, even though those applying for a permit are not asked about what they are watering. Growers with a permit are required to collect water in the wet season and store it, rather than siphoning it off when it is most needed by coho salmon spawning in the Eel River and other waterways.

Indoor marijuana cultivation is no more environmentally conscious. The LA Times cites a study in the journal Energy Policy that estimates that indoor marijuana cultivation accounts for 9 percent of California’s household electricity use.

Is the best way for the state of California to curb these environmental hazards by conducting raids on dispensaries and farms?  If marijuana were regulated so people did not have to operate “under the wire” to grow it amid the legal “free-for-all” — but rather had to acquire legal permits for water and land use — could these threats to endangered wildlife be lessened?


Related Care2 Coverage

Is a Cure Coming? Marijuana Compound Stops Aggressive Cancers

UN Drug Official ‘Voices Concern’ Over State Marijuana Laws

Medical Marijuana Up For Debate in Federal Court

Photo from Thinkstock


Silvestr Vetchinin

Time to legalize it and properly regulate it.

Melania Padilla
Melania P4 years ago

If it harms wildlife, it should be illegal or grown on other sites

Carrie Anne Brown
Carrie-Anne B4 years ago

thanks for sharing

David S.
David S4 years ago

Does anyone comprehend what Diane L is rambling on about?

No matter. I hope everyone else can comprehend my original comments on this article.

Diane L.
Diane L4 years ago

Ummm, I see David actually has no profile. When one clicks on the avatar,they get nothing but a bunch of "hyroglyphics" and code................typical of a troll who joines a site for no other reason than to "incite" and "stir-the-pot".

I suggest everyone ignore David for the obvious reasons. Customer Support will deal with him soon enough.

Diane L.
Diane L4 years ago

David S., it's PROBABLY questionable to even give you the credibility of a response, but surely you can "get it" that you've violated about every rule in the C.O.C. possible with your disrespectful, hostile, rude and unfactual bunch of nonsense. You also seem to NOT comprehend what a "troll" is, and it's obviously which one of us is one. Just how much do you make to defend Monsanto and BIG AG?

At least I have an avatar, and geez,what do you's of a canine........not the DEFAULT froggie you use to hide your identity. I see you joined a month ago.........not enough time to figure out HOW to post one that is appropriate? No offense meant to anyone else who uses the "default frog" since they are at least civil and are addressing the topic, not just somebody they don't agree with.

David S.
David S4 years ago

Does anyone else notice Diane L to be the silliest argumentative troll on care2 ?

Perhaps she has a picture of a dogs butt for her profile, because it's where she pulls out her rambling nonsensical replies from.

Meris Michaels
Meris Michaels4 years ago

Are we forgetting all the other crops which require huge quantities of water? For example, the soy monocultures in South America which have resulted in destruction of the rainforest, or the palm oil plantations in Indonesia which are destroying forests and wildlife? Is Care2 against medical marijuana? There are health benefits to marijuana which outweigh use of chemical medications. In Switzerland, growing marijuana is legal is certain cantons and its medical benefits are recognized; its agriculture is not being ruined by growing the substance. It would be more ruined by GMO plant cultivation, which dominates certain U.S. crops. GMO cultivation was banned in Switzerland in 2005; the ban has just been extended until end 2017.

Winn Adams
Winn A4 years ago


Lisa D.
Lisa D4 years ago

This article appears to be a total load of crap! I am quite glad that (most of) the people who have read it know better than to simply believe everything they read.. it sounds like the "competition" is simply trying to get ahead by spreading some lies.