Brandon Keim has a post over at Anthropocene about the environmental costs of marijuana farming in California.
When thinking about agriculture’s environmental footprint, the usual suspects jump to mind: corn and cotton and soy, vast resource-intensive commodity crops. Marijuana isn’t high on the list. Yet perhaps it should be. “Despite its small current land-use footprint,” write the authors of a pot farming study published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, “if changes are not made in the spatial pattern of its expansion, the boom in cannabis agriculture will likely create substantial threats to the surrounding environment.”
While other researchers have studied pot’s intensive water requirements and the often-heavy use of pesticides by its farmers, Wang’s team focused on the contribution of farms to deforestation and habitat fragmentation. They found that marijuana farms, which by law are not allowed to be larger than one acre, dot the region’s forests like a patchwork. Often crops are planted on land cleared deep in previously-intact groves. This arrangement disrupts the core forest’s ecology.
Read the whole thing. The requirement for using small fields may have been put in place to keep large commercial operators from putting existing pot growers out of business (or some other well-intended purpose), but think about trying to produce industrial quantities of hemp plants using the farming methods more suitable to hiding from the narcs than protecting the environment.