Another View: Medical marijuana growers care for the environment

Published: Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 10A

The Western Plant Science Association, with headquarters in Butte County, represents the interests of qualified medical marijuana patients and collectives. Recently, we were quite disappointed to read a statement in The Sacramento Bee by The Bee's Dan Morain ("Environment is going to pot," Aug. 4).

Referring to medical marijuana growers, Morain made the unqualified statement that: "Growers don't obtain permits and take no steps to limit erosion."

This statement impugns the character and credibility of legitimate medical marijuana growers, both qualified patients and medical marijuana collectives.

The fact is that a very small percentage of marijuana growers are causing damage to the environment, almost exclusively the drug cartels that grow marijuana on our public lands and those who are simply in it to sell recreational marijuana on the black market. As to those individuals, the culprit is greed. Greed that is fueled by high black-market prices, a direct consequence of the federal government's war against marijuana, an abysmal failure.

Scientific research has proven cannabinoids effective in limiting the growth of and in shrinking cancerous tumors, staving off Alzheimer's, reducing pain, treating weight loss associated with AIDS, and reducing the nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy. Many people with serious illnesses simply cannot tolerate prescription drug side effects. In 2009, the American Medical Association stated that cannabis has medical benefits and requested that the federal government reclassify cannabis, to promote more scientific research.

Unfortunately, Congress has completely ignored the AMA's request for almost four years. Hence, even though national polls consistently show that medical marijuana enjoys support from 70 to 80 percent of the American public and that a majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana outright, marijuana remains on the federal Controlled Substance Act's Schedule 1, in the most dangerous class of drugs, classified as a controlled substance with no medical benefits. This makes federal marijuana offenses subject to draconian federal mandatory minimum sentencing rules, which raises the black market price.

Most qualified patients and collectives grow their own medicine, because they know exactly what is in it. This is why most qualified patients and collectives don't use chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides.

Those with serious illnesses who use medical marijuana do so partly because it is natural, not chemical. Similarly, most medical marijuana growers are excellent stewards of the land upon which they grow and take great pride in caring for our environment and our natural resources in a responsible manner.

Andrew Merkel, a Realtor and land owner in Chico, chairs the Board of Directors of the Western Plant Science Association.

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