TNC Marijuana Study: High Time for Conservation

Mike Sweeney, Executive Director of the California Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), believes that some of the most important work they do is provide the science necessary to drive change across the state and nation.  You can access TNC’s recently published study via the link below.


High Time to Clean Up Marijuana’s Environmental Mess
Marijuana. Pot. Weed. Cannabis. Mary Jane.

So many ways to talk about it, but no one knows what pot really means for California.

California grows 60 to 70 percent of all the pot in the U.S. and the $16 billion harvest often comes from illegal grow farms in Northern California where forests are cleared, rivers are sucked dry or tainted with chemicals, and animals are poisoned. Take the Pacific fisher, a member of the weasel family that looks like a bear cub, which dies when rodenticide liquefies its insides (bottom right photo). Pot growers use pounds of this stuff, which has killed animals as big as a black bear.

Marijuana is a thirsty crop – it uses twice as much water as wine grapes – and most of this water is being illegally diverted from streams during the worst drought in recorded history. Meanwhile, there is not enough funding for restoration, regulation or enforcement of environmental laws, and growers often try to protect their crops with military-grade weapons and booby traps. This makes it difficult for scientists to understand the full scope of the problem and what needs to be done to fix it.

With legalization on the horizon, and demand for weed growing, we need to get a handle on this before the “green rush” leaves California high and dry.

Today we released a study in the journal BioScience that addresses this issue: High Time for Conservation: Adding the Environment to the Debate on Marijuana Liberalization.

In the coming weeks, you’ll hear more as we promote this study. Read more on conserveca.org.

Mike Sweeney
Executive Director, California Chapter
The Nature Conservancy

Photos, from left: A marijuana grow site discovered on public lands; Trash from marijuana cultivation pollutes land and water; Sheriff Mike Downey with a Pacific fisher that died from rodenticide. © Department of Fish and Wildlife and Humboldt Sheriff's Department.

Photos, from left: A marijuana grow site discovered on public lands; Trash from marijuana cultivation pollutes land and water; Sheriff Mike Downey with a Pacific fisher that died from rodenticide.
© Department of Fish and Wildlife and Humboldt Sheriff’s Department.