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The New Reefer Madness: Drug War Crusaders Blame Pot Growers for Dead Animals -- But the Drug War's to Blame

Law enforcement is now pointing to the environmental harms caused by illegal pot farms to justify the ongoing Drug War. But they've got it backwards.

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Another Mexican citizen who was convicted of growing 8,876 pot plants cut down native oak trees: "the soil was tilled, and fertilizers and pesticides, including a highly toxic and illegal rat poison from Mexico called Fosfuro de Zinc or zinc phosphide, were spread throughout the site," Wagner's office noted.

And even on the White House's web page on marijuana, the environment gets its own section in which the administration states, "Outdoor marijuana cultivation is harmful to the environment."

Corva laughed when I read him the White House's statement. "That's ridiculous," he said. "Outdoor is better.

"Where does this come from?" he continued. "Sensationalist coverage of the exception rather than the rule, and also the conditions of prohibition, basically."

Meisel added: "There's nothing about growing dope that has to involve massive amounts of energy, dangerous chemicals, water diversion, disrespect to your neighbors, and killing animal species — just like we don't have to do that growing tomatoes. And we don't grow tomatoes in Yosemite. These are unintended consequences of the policy, not the plant.

"My sense is that this has become a tool to break the back of the legalization movement," Meisel continued, referring to the decision by Drug War enforcers to shift their rhetoric from the supposed dangers of smoking weed to the environmental damage caused by trespass grows in order to gain support among environmentalists for the War on Pot. "It's a strategy to undermine local growing across the board, as opposed to going after people who are violating environmental laws."

Norms have shifted around marijuana consumption, Silvaggio added. "Presidents have smoked weed. But there's a need to keep it illegal. There's this particular function it provides — that is law enforcement money.

"So they've switched tracks," Silvaggio continued. "And this track has proved very useful."


But the way to halt environmental harms caused by growing pot isn't through a new campaign against weed; it's through legalization, taxation, and regulation of cannabis, said Humboldt County Sheriff Downey during a public meeting with North Bay Congressman Jared Huffman on August 29. "I've never been a big fan of legalization," Downey told the crowd. "But right now I think that's the most logical way to end this Drug War."

After all, it was the Drug War that sent growers into the forest in the first place. And farming in the woods offers no particular advantage for growers — other than allowing them to avoid detection by law enforcement. "Are they up there for the dry weather, great soil, and ample water?" said celebrity growing instructor Ed Rosenthal. "No, they're up there because it's hard to get caught."

Legalizing marijuana and growing it on traditional farms, alongside other crops, also will eliminate the risks currently associated with pot production and distribution — and will likely reduce costs dramatically. According to Rand estimates, fully legalized, commercially farmed high-grade pot would cost just $20 per pound to produce. And low-grade weed would cost only $5 per pound. With profit margins so low, there simply would be no incentive to spend four filthy months growing weed in bear-infested backwoods, Silvaggio and other advocates of legalization point out.

Plus, farming marijuana out in the open would be much better for the environment — there would be no need, for example, to siphon water illegally from creeks and streams. And pesticide and insecticide use could be regulated — like they it is for any other crop. "If it was grown like corn or hemp, it would be regulated, including the discharge of chemicals and the amount of water used and the way you grade," said Connelly. In addition, organic pot-growing likely would sprout as a major industry.

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