Natural Hazard? Study Says Farming Marijuana Hurting Environment

CBS Local — Marijuana activists may argue that the plant is a natural remedy with many uses, but a new report is claiming that farming the drug has another harmful side-effect: it’s destroying the environment.

Researchers from Ithaca College say that the growing number of small pot farms being planted in remote forest areas are having a major impact on the local environment. The New York team points to forest fragmentation, soil erosion, and landslides as the main side-effects of inserting pot farms into the forest. The college has previously outlined how commercial marijuana farming was poisoning forest animals with pesticides and dewatering streams by improper irrigation in states like California.

“Policymakers and planners need to enact specific environmental and land-use regulations to control cannabis crop expansion,” Environmental Studies professor Jake Brenner said in the college’s press release. The study’s co-author added that while the lumber industry still has a larger impact on the size of forests, the impact over a smaller area by marijuana crops was even more destructive.

“Cannabis causes far greater changes in key metrics on a per-unit-area basis,” researcher Van Butsic said. The report found that planting cannabis farms resulted in 1.5 times more forest loss and 2.5 times more fragmentation of the landscape and wildlife habitats than harvesting trees for timber did over the same amount of space.

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