Megadrought Caused by Pot Farms?

megadrought

In Northern California, the abundant pot farms are said to be responsible for the state’s “Megadrought,” a term said to first appear in a 1998 paper published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.  While the origin of the term may seem boring, the recent turn to blaming pot farmers and the federal government is a hot topic.

According to the the website Quartz, pot producers are using vast amounts of the precious, life-giving resource for their farms in northern California. In turn, it is being said that the U.S. government is also to blame for the conflicting role it plays in making the plant illegal even as it allows states to assert their rights to make it legal.

An LA Times story in February wrote that “[b]ecause marijuana is unregulated in California and illegal under federal law, most growers still operate in the shadows.”

According to Quartz, “A single plant of marijuana needs about six gallons of water per day, [which] means industrial grows need between 12,000 and 30,000 gallons of water” daily.

The result is that California pot farmers, apparently eager to cash in before the price goes down in the wake of recreational pot being made legal in Colorado and Washington, are emptying nearby reservoirs at a phenomenal rate and may be hugely responsible for the megadrought said to be in effect.

Colorado made recreational pot ownership and use legal starting on January 1 and Washington did the same in November, 2012.

Since the farms are not regulated for taxes or for water use or rights, the growers are making a huge profit, which in turn allows them to expand or move as demand grows. Aerial shots provided by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) exhibit burgeoning patches of bare land where pot farmers are said to be established.

It could be that the remaining water is being poisoned by pot farmers, which will make a megadrought even worse.

In one of the CDFW’s currently permitted mountain lion research projects, an abstract states that “evaluate the exposure of mountain lions to rodenticides, insecticides, and other toxins currently being found in fishers and presumed to come from illegal marijuana cultivation sites.”

A National Public Radio (NPR) report in January said that pot growers along California’s north coast are making negative impacts on the salmon populations. The story reported on the pesticides being dumped into streams and the severe impact the chemicals have on salmon.

The small town of Redding, which sits east of the foot of Post Mountain in northern California, has become an unwanted destination for several tens of seasonal pot farmers who arrive in the spring, stay through the summer and then depart for the winter leaving trash, unlawfully deforested lands and tons of chemicals drained in the water supply.

ABC News 10’s local channel reported on the problem in an October, 2010 story that videotaped the many environmental problems that are only now being widely acknowledged. The problem was so bad and yet the growers had long known that the street signs for Post Mountain Road had been altered to read “Pot Mountain.”

If California is indeed in the early years of a megadrought, then the owners of the pot farms will likely flee the state before any legislation can hold them responsible for the damage that many say is befalling the water, wildlife and other plant life.

By Randall Fleming

Sources:

Quartz

AMS

CDFW

L.A. Times

NPR

ABC News 10

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