In the special marijuana-themed Nov. 18 issue of The Nation
magazine, reporter Seth Zuckerman chronicles the environmental impacts
of indoor and outdoor grow operations here in Humboldt County. Quoting locals such as Friends of The Eel River Executive Director Scott Graecen, HSU lecturer Tony Silvaggio and Arcata City Councilman Michael Winkler, Zuckerman describes the scope of damage being done here — from grading, erosion, poisons and fertilizers in outdoor grows to combustible houses and massive carbon footprints of indoor operations.
Zuckerman lays the blame not only on profit-hungry growers but also on the federal government, saying, "prohibition sabotages efforts to reduce the industry’s environmental damage."
The rather ubiquitous YouTube video above, produced by Silvaggio and an HSU grad student using Google Earth, is addressed (and embedded) in the story, which is well worth a read. Below are some choice quotes:
Even though cannabis cultivation has flourished under the ambiguous auspices of California’s medical marijuana laws, the people who are best placed to serve as watchdogs over environmental abuses in their remote areas still feel bound by a code of silence to protect each other from the law.
[T]he carbon footprint of a single gram of cannabis is the same as driving seventeen miles in a Honda Civic
Tony Silvaggio, a lecturer at Humboldt State University and a scholar at the campus’s year-old Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research, found that potent poisons such as Avid and Floramite are sold in small vials under the counter at grower supply stores, in defiance of a state law that requires they be sold only to holders of a pesticide applicator’s license. Nor are just the workers at risk: the miticides have been tested for use on decorative plants, but not for their impacts if smoked.
Consumers could exert market power through their choices, if only they had a reliable, widely accepted certification program, like the ones that guarantee the integrity of organic agriculture. But thanks to the prohibition on pot, no such certification program exists for cannabis products.