Marijuana has commonly been associated with peace loving, tree hugging hippies, but how green is it really? The subject has come under scrutiny lately, partly due to the drought in California (which also happens to be where 60-70% of the USA’s weed comes from). And while America’s left wing has been known to advocate legalization, it has also been known to be pro-environment. At first glance, this seems like a paradox, so I decided we would take a closer look.
On one hand, supporting the marijuana trade is not, by any stretch of the imagination, environmentally friendly. The plant is quite water intensive, using 200 gallons of water per pound. This has taken a toll on California, leaving the state high and dry. And as the industry is poorly regulated, a lot of this water is taken by simply rerouting rivers to “gorilla grows”. This is devastating to the local ecosystems. Since most of these grows are illegal to begin with, they are also able to get away with using massive quantities of pesticides, fungicides and rodenticides (even some that have been banned the US). And as many of these grow operations are in secluded areas; there is no proper waste disposal system. This means that when harvest season is over, the growers clear out as fast as possible leaving their pesticides, tools, generators, car batteries, etcetera behind to leak toxic waste into the once pristine natural parks of northern California.
On the other hand, it’s clear that legalization would help ease the environmental burden of Marijuana. Even now, with Marijuana’s quasi-legal status, the farms are moving out of the woods and into the light of governmental regulation. Marijuana can easily be grown with less water, and government regulation would provide farmers with an incentive to do so. The controversial nature of the crop means the government (even the far right) will be keen to place stricter laws on it’s water and pesticide use, which will provide a framework to pass similar laws for other crops. This could bring about a much needed reform in the way America’s farms are regulated, and while it’s bad news for farmers, it’s very good news for the environment and future generations!
This would also be the end of banned pesticides, and the beginning of new incentives to use less pesticides in general. Farming without pesticides is more labor intensive, and therefore more expensive. In a unregulated market, there is absolutely no incentive to grow organic, as your buyers will not notice the difference (and they will notice the difference in cost!). However in a regulated market farmers would be able to obtain the organic stamp, and the users would be able to choose more ethically grown weed. I’m sure most smokers would be happy to pay a little more for weed that doesn’t put illegal rat poison in their lungs.
So is the green green? Sorry stoners, the answer is definitely no. However, legalization will make it more so. If helping the environment is what you had in mind, you might want to cut back on your wake-n-bakes, but you should also consider voting for legalization on your November ballot.
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