How Illegal Marijuana Grows are Poisoning Northern California’s Public Lands


When recreational marijuana was legalized in California in 2018, U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott announced that his concerns won’t lie within the recreational market, but rather the massive marijuana grows in the dense wilderness of federal lands in Northern California. He said that U.S., state and local authorities will target the illegal grows with $2.5 million in federal money, especially the grow operations that use highly toxic pesticides.

Not only do illegal grow operations in the wilderness create safety concerns for outdoor enthusiasts, but they are also finding that 72 percent of illegal grow operations are using the pesticide Carbofuran. The pesticide is used to kill off insects and animals that may come in contact with the marijuana site, and it works very well. One teaspoon of Carbofuran could kill a 300-pound bear.

When agents and law enforcement find an illegal marijuana grow in the dense wilderness, it typically comes with its fair share of trash and the area is flooded with toxic pesticides.

“The true crime here is the fact that they’re killing off basically America’s public lands, killing off the wildlife, killing off our water,” said Kevin Mayer, a U.S. Forest Service law enforcement assistant special agent in charge, to NPR. “This is stuff that, you know, it’s not gonna repair itself.”

The illegal grow sites in Northern California can have severe effects on the public lands of the vast and nearly untouched wilderness, including wildlife deaths and diversion of natural water flows. In the past, many of these illegal grow sites are the doing of Mexican drug cartel workers, whose operations are backed by organized crime wealth and the marijuana is then trafficked all over the country.

With a year under their belts, National Geographic followed special agents from the U.S. Forest Service, along with a group of passionate conservationists in Humboldt County, on a raid of an illegal grow site in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. The message of the short film was to show the lasting harm that pesticides from illegal grow sites are doing to the wilderness of NorCal.

Watch the video:

The policy from the federal government of concentrating on illegal grows that damage wildlife is a great path in order to protect our beautiful public lands, eliminate illegal and toxic growing operations, and provide support to a so-far successful recreational market.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California

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