Marijuana and the Environment: Regulation Needed


The arrest and citation of marijuana growers, providers and consumers across the country is a vast drain on our nation’s limited resources. In Oregon, a state with rather progressive cannabis laws, the state still arrested and cited more than 10,000 adults for marijuana every year, something that will thankfully end as the state’s voters have chosen to legalize cannabis use and its commercial production. Despite prohibitionists’ claims that those 10,000-plus arrests and citations really didn’t take any time, Oregonians wisely saw through the ruse and chose to better prioritize the Beaver State’s law enforcement time and resources.

Across the United States, police arrest someone for marijuana every 42 seconds, taking valuable time away from battling real crime, such as robberies and murders. Additionally, all of these arrests, mainly for victimless “crime” of marijuana possession, takes time away from finding large-scale grow operations that are actually harming people by polluting land and water.

Pollution from marijuana grow sites are causing issues in California especially. From an AP story published by the Weather Channel:

“People are coming in, denuding the hillsides, damming the creeks and mixing in fertilizers that are not allowed in the U.S. into our watersheds,” Denise Rushing, a Lake County supervisor, told the Associated Press. “When rains come, it flows downstream into the lake and our water supply.”

Suspicions arose 18 years ago, when water supplies in Humboldt, Mendocino and Lake Counties began running dry shortly after the state passed Proposition 15, which legalized medical marijuana usage in California and sparked demand for homegrown marijuana farms.

“We knew people were diverting water for marijuana operations, but we wanted to know exactly how much,” said Scott Bauer, the department biologist who studied the pot farms’ effects on four watersheds, told the Associated Press.  “We didn’t know they could consume all the water in a stream.”

While many operating both in the illegal and gray marijuana markets may be resistance to rules and regulations, such compromises must be made to prevent serious voter backlash or federal intervention. The cannabis community has a long history of compassion and a passion for sustainability; this goodwill is threatened when our land and water is being polluted. Common sense regulations can protect licensed farmers, our environment and end wasteful and harmful arrests. Without regulations, more lives will be needlessly ruined and the environmental implications could become deadly. Let’s all move forward to sensibly legalize and regulate cannabis for the benefit of all.

Anthony, a longtime cannabis law reform advocate, was Chief Petitioner and co-author of Measure 91, Oregon's cannabis legalization effort. He served as director of both the New Approach Oregon and Vote Yes on 91 PACs, the political action committees responsible for the state's legalization campaign. As director of New Approach Oregon, Anthony continues to work towards effectively implementing the cannabis legalization system while protecting small business owners and the rights of patients. He sits on the Oregon Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee and fights for sensible rules at the legislature as well as city councils and county commissions across the state. Anthony helps cannabis business comply with Oregon's laws and advises advocates across the country. He also serves as content director of both the International Cannabis Business Conference and the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference, helping share the vision of moving the cannabis industry forward in a way that maintains the focus on keeping people out of prison and protecting patients. He was a member of the Oregon Health Authority Rules Advisory Committee, assisting the drafting of the administrative rules governing Oregon’s state-licensed medical marijuana facilities. He first co-authored and helped pass successful marijuana law reform measures while a law student at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. He passed the Oregon Bar in 2005 and practiced criminal defense for two years before transitioning to working full-time in the political advocacy realm. His blogs on Marijuana Politics are personal in nature and don't speak for or reflect the opinions of any group or organization.