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Monday, February 2

Foreign Commercial Marijuana Farming in USA: Unintended Consequences of Anti-terrorism Measures

As so often happens a press outlet won't pick up every sentence from a report prepared by a 'wire' service such as the Associated Press. In 2008 Eoin O'Carroll, then the writer at Christian Science Monitor's Bright Green Blog, added an important sentence from an AP report that the San Jose Mercury News omitted from its publication of the same report (see below).

From O'Carroll's report (emphasis mine):
Following post-9/11 border-security measures, a number of Mexican drug cartels moved their grow sites inside the United States.  Federally managed land offered the best sites for remote, anonymous plots. According to the AP story, the biggest sites are in the Cascade Range, which extends from British Columbia to Northern California, and in federal lands in Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
However, national coverage of marijuana cultivation in those three southern states is sparse. As to reporting on the amount and type of environmental damage done in those states by commercial pot growing, that seemed to be a verboten topic when I checked last summer.
 
Yet by odd coincidence the kind of environmental damage done by mountaintop removal coal strip mining in the Appalachian regions of those states is the same as widely reported with unregulated pot farming in California, if you discount the actual mountaintop removal: deforestation; dammed, diverted, polluted waterways and destroyed waterways with attendant destruction of endangered fish; soil pollution and erosion; poisoning of endangered wildlife from industrial chemicals.
   
California and those three other states are by no means the only ones that do large business in illicit commercial marijuana cultivation, even though California has gotten the lion's share of press attention.  Reporting on damage done to other U.S. states by commercial marijuana growing is like flashes of lightning illuminating a pitch dark landscape.
 
October 2008:
"What's going on on public lands is a crisis at every level," said Forest Service agent Ron Pugh. "These are America's most precious resources, and they are being devastated by an unprecedented commercial enterprise conducted by armed foreign nationals."

The first documented marijuana cartels were discovered in Sequoia National Park in 1998. Then, officials say, tighter border controls after Sept. 11, 2001, forced industrial-scale growers to move their operations into the United States.

Mexican marijuana cartels sully U.S. forests, parks
By Tracie Cone
Associated Press via San Jose Mercury News
October 11, 2008

PORTERVILLE, Calif. — National forests and parks — long popular with Mexican marijuana-growing cartels — have become home to some of the most polluted pockets of wilderness in America because of the toxic chemicals needed to eke out lucrative harvests from rocky mountainsides, federal officials said.
Seven hundred grow sites were discovered on U.S. Forest Service land in California in 2007 and 2008 — and authorities say the 1,800-square-mile Sequoia National Forest is the hardest hit.

Weed and bug sprays, some long banned in the United States, have been smuggled to the marijuana farms. Plant growth hormones have been dumped into streams, and the water has been diverted for miles in PVC pipes.

Rat poison has been sprinkled over the landscape to keep animals away from tender plants. Many sites are strewn with the carcasses of deer and bears poached by workers during the five-month growing season that is now ending.

"What's going on on public lands is a crisis at every level," said Forest Service agent Ron Pugh. "These are
America's most precious resources, and they are being devastated by an unprecedented commercial enterprise conducted by armed foreign nationals."

The first documented marijuana cartels were discovered in Sequoia National Park in 1998. Then, officials say, tighter border controls after Sept. 11, 2001, forced industrial-scale growers to move their operations into the United States.

Millions of dollars are spent every year to find and uproot marijuana-growing operations on state and federal lands, but federal officials say no money is budgeted to clean up the environmental mess left behind. They are encouraged that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who last year secured funding for eradication, has inquired about the pollution problems.

In the meantime, the only cleanup is done by volunteers. Tuesday, the non-profit High Sierra Trail Crew, plans to take 30 people deep into the Sequoia National Forest to carry out miles of drip irrigation pipe, tons of human garbage, volatile propane canisters, and bags and bottles of herbicides and pesticides.

"People light up a joint, and they have no idea the amount of environmental damage associated with it," said Cicely Muldoon, deputy regional director of the Pacific West Region of the National Park Service.
[END REPORT]

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