Prop 19: Helping To Get Pot Out Of Our Parks?
Marijuana…legal?! We have all likely heard the “what ifs” that pertain to the legalization of marijuana. While many affirmative arguments are tax related, additional effects like those that are environmentally related have flown under the radar. For example, how could the passing of Prop 19 help our national forests?
On multiple occasions over the past 12 years, illegal marijuana plots have been found and removed by National Park Services from Yosemite to the Sequoia National Park, where 13,077 plants worth $52 million were eliminated just one month ago. In fact, 8 of the 10 national forests that lead the nation in marijuana eradication are in California. The climate and fertile soil makes for an attractive location for growers linked to large-scale Mexican drug cartels and gangs. But why grow on our land? Growing these illegal crops on local land aids in easy distribution to local markets, and eliminates many risks associated with transporting marijuana across the border. Considering the increasing difficulty of smuggling across the border and the growing war on drugs by Mexico and the U.S., cultivation on domestic soil becomes the favorable option.
The fact of the matter is, it isn’t just plants that are being found at the growing sites. Fertilizers, trash, uneaten food, pesticides, and other environmental hazards that plague our national forests are supplied by cartels to set up shop. In fact, the National Park Service estimates that “every acre of forest that traffickers plant with cannabis damages 10 acres”. And the cost? $11,000 per acre to rehabilitate. And while the marijuana farms are generally far from trails, there are public safety dangers as well: traffickers are armed and utilize explosive devices and traps to protect their precious plots.
All politics aside, we have ourselves a substantial mistreatment of our wilderness that is extremely hard to eradicate based on lack of funding, and the intensive removal operations required to completely resolve the issue. While most of us are unlikely to go seek out marijuana plots on a leisurely hike, there is something we can do. Prop 19 has the potential to decrease drug cartel power in Mexico by decreasing their source of revenue, which could in turn have a positive affect on a crucial part of our environment. It’s worth a shot, right?