Weed’s Toxic Secret

Many people will be surprised to learn that marijuana production is behind the creation of some of the worst environmental toxins in the U.S.–especially in our precious national forests.


 

Toxic waste from U.S. pot farms alarms experts

Reuters

Pollution from illegal marijuana farms deep in California’s national forests is far worse than previously thought, and has turned thousands of acres into waste dumps so toxic that simply touching plants has landed law enforcement officers in the hospital.

The volume of banned or restricted pesticides and illegally applied fertilizers in the woods dwarfs estimates by the U.S. Forest Service in 2014, when a top enforcement official testified that the pollution was threatening forest land in California and other states…

Ecologist Mourad Gabriel, who documents the issue for the Forest Service as well as other state, local and federal law enforcement agencies, estimates California’s forests hold 41 times more solid fertilizers and 80 times more liquid pesticides than Forest Service investigators found in 2013…

Gabriel…pointed out that toxics are used at thousands of illegal farms on private and tribal land. After a year or two, growers often abandon sites, leaving containers of chemicals so toxic a quarter-teaspoon could kill a bear.

Growers use fertilizers and pesticides long restricted or banned in the United States, including carbofuran and zinc phosphide. In previous years, it was commonly sold fertilizers and pesticides that were used illegally, law enforcement officials said.

Exposure to the pesticides has sent at least five law enforcement officials and two suspects to hospitals with skin rashes, respiratory problems and other symptoms, court documents and state data show.

Use of any chemicals in national forests is against federal law, as pesticides have killed sensitive species and fertilizers can cause algae blooms and bacteria problems in rivers and streams.

According to unpublished data seen by Reuters, Gabriel, who has visited more than 100 sites in California and is widely considered the top expert on toxics at marijuana farms, calculated that federal land in California contains 731,000 pounds of solid fertilizer, 491,000 ounces of concentrated liquid fertilizer and 200,000 ounces of toxic pesticides…

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“We’re getting contamination over and over again at those locations as toxins move from unsafe containers into the soil and water.”

-Ecologist Mourad Gabriel

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At sites that state officials said they had cleaned up completely, his team found 30-50 percent of the chemicals were still there…

Use of toxics has grown over the past three to four years, and chemicals have been found at sites in Oregon and Washington as well…Federal prosecutors have  charged pot growers with environmental crimes in Alaska, Oregon and Washington…

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