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, 65 (8), 822-829

High Time for Conservation: Adding the Environment to the Debate on Marijuana Liberalization

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High Time for Conservation: Adding the Environment to the Debate on Marijuana Liberalization

Jennifer K Carah et al. Bioscience.

Abstract

The liberalization of marijuana policies, including the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana, is sweeping the United States and other countries. Marijuana cultivation can have significant negative collateral effects on the environment that are often unknown or overlooked. Focusing on the state of California, where by some estimates 60%-70% of the marijuana consumed in the United States is grown, we argue that (a) the environmental harm caused by marijuana cultivation merits a direct policy response, (b) current approaches to governing the environmental effects are inadequate, and

Keywords: Cannabis; agriculture production; biodiversity; endangered species; policy/ethics.

Figures

Figure 1.
Figure 1.
Land clearing, habitat conversion, and road building associated with marijuana cultivation in the Trinity River watershed (a) before conversion, 2004, and (b) after conversion, 2012. Source: Jennifer Carah; base imagery US Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency through Google Earth (2004), and Google Earth (2012).
Figure 2.
Figure 2.
A California outdoor marijuana garden adjacent to a drained wetland. The wetland was drained to irrigate the marijuana garden. Photograph: Scott Bauer.
Figure 3.
Figure 3.
An illegally constructed pond and water diversion associated with a marijuana cultivation site in northern California. Photograph: Scott Bauer.
Figure 4.
Figure 4.
Actual growing season (June–October) discharge volumes (liters per square kilometer [km2] per season) for the Eel River watershed compared with mean growing season discharge volume and estimated marijuana irrigation water need. Note that marijuana water demand (on a per-area basis) exceeds water yield by almost ten times.

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