Marijuana growers are impacting the environment in Northern California, endangering wildlife and threatening forests, The New York Times reports.
Animals called Pacific fishers, a type of weasel, have been killed by rat poison spread on marijuana crops. Two endangered spotted owls tested positive for an ingredient in rat poison.
Bulldozers used to make room for marijuana crops can start landslides on mountainsides prone to erosion, while construction of roads and dams can clog streams with dislodged soil. Other streams dry up because they are diverted, leaving little water for salmon.
Some illegal operations, believed to be the work of Mexican drug cartels, have 70,000 to 100,000 plants surrounded by cans of tuna and sardines laced with the rat poison d-Con.
Mark Lovelace, a Humboldt County, California, supervisor, says the drug’s illegal status under federal law makes it difficult for local governments to control the problem. He says that legalizing marijuana would allow for more regulation, and help stop environmental abuses.
A local nonprofit group, Sanctuary Forest, is subsidizing installation of tanks to store water in the winter for use in warmer, dryer months. “There may be people who grow pot in our group,” Tasha McKee, Executive Director, told the newspaper. “I’m sure there are. We don’t ask that question.”