California wildlife may be in great trouble and danger thanks to the illegal cannabis market. Despite the legalization of Prop 64, which proposed the end of the black cannabis market, the illegal cannabis business is still quite prevalent in California. Many cities are still working hard at solving this issue. For example, in Costa Mesa, officials are taking legal steps to address the legal cannabis market taking place in the city. They wish to establish a legal retail setting for cannabis, which may help eliminate the illicit market. The illegal market places a strain on law enforcement and the legal cannabis business. Now, it seems that illegal cannabis is negatively affecting California’s wildlife as well. Here are 3 ways illegal cannabis hurts wildlife.
3 Ways Illegal Cannabis Hurts Wildlife: Pesticides
Anyone who grows cannabis plants recognizes that they can require intense care. Especially when grown outdoors, cannabis plants can require close attention to detail. Additionally, there can be many factors that can affect the cultivation of cannabis, such as temperature, winds, even insects.
Unfortunately, it’s popular among illegal cannabis cultivation to use extensive and illegal pesticides. These pesticides are used on cannabis plants, water, and even soil. The amount and type of pesticides used at these cultivation farms are one of the ways illegal cannabis hurts wildlife.
According to wildlife ecologist, Greta Wengert, the insecticide and rodenticide used at these locations are dangerous to wildlife. Wengert has found about a gallon of concentrated carbofuran, which is banned by the Environmental Protection Agency for all legal purposes.
“It’s incredibly toxic,” Wengert explains. “A quarter-teaspoon could kill a 600-pound black bear. […] It remains in an ecosystem for a long period of time.”
From cartels to hippies– many of those who are growing cannabis illegally are only in it for the money. Thus, they’ll do anything to protect their cash crops, even from insects and rodents. These groups are now using more chemicals and spreading them generously to ensure their plants can grow without disturbance.
So much so that it’s becoming part of the food chain in forests where people are growing cannabis illegally. Mourad Gabriel is Wengert’s colleague and a wildlife disease ecologist. He has documented that 85% of California fishers have been exposed to rodenticide. Fishers are forest-dwelling mammals similar to weasels and minks. They live in the trees and eat small rodents, squirrels, and even birds.
Much of their prey is being heavily affected by the pesticides distributed out by illegal cannabis growers. As a result, fishers are consuming infected food, and that’s how it moves up through the food chain within these ecosystems.
Additionally, fishers are also affected by another component of illegal cannabis farming: trash.
3 Ways Illegal Cannabis Hurts Wildlife: Trash
These illegal cannabis farms are usually quite large in order to grow a sustainable amount that produces profit. This requires a large number of workers in order to effectively care for the cannabis plants. In most instances, these workers live in terrible conditions on the farm.
For that reason, much of the trash left at these farming sites are of tents, clothes, living supplies, and waste. In many cases, these contracted workers are not allowed to leave the premises, meaning the trash continues to pile on. In fact, Wengert has found abandoned campsites in California’s Shata-Trinity National Forest filled with trash. Some of these campsites had up to 3,000 pounds worth of trash.
The trash left behind at these illegal cannabis farms can become toxic and extremely harmful to wildlife. Some of the sites show indications that trash has been accumulating for years.
Wild animals can rummage through the trash and cause health problems.
3 Ways Illegal Cannabis Hurts Wildlife: Stealing Water Sources
Water plays a large role in the cultivation of cannabis plants, whether it’s indoors or outdoors. Unfortunately, in states like California, water can be a resource that isn’t so easily accessible. There has been an ongoing drought in California for some time. This means that water usage is limited for residents, businesses, and other services.
Moreover, many of those illegal cannabis cultivators will go through extreme measures to obtain the necessary water to grow weed. For example, in California deserts, illegal cannabis operations will steal water sources from neighboring communities.
They’ll do so by drilling into wells and aqueducts. Additionally, they’ll even steal from fire hydrants. This is a threat, not only to wildlife but to the residents and the firefighters in the area as well. In fact, so much water was stolen from these areas that it began affecting the water pressure.
As a security measure, the Los Angeles County Fire Department ordered the removal of 100 hydrants within the affected areas.