California Weed

Is marijuana farming hurting the environment?

A marijuana bud is seen before harvesting at a rural area near Corvallis, Ore., on Sept. 30, 2016.
A marijuana bud is seen before harvesting at a rural area near Corvallis, Ore., on Sept. 30, 2016. AP

As nine states prepare to vote on marijuana legalization on Nov. 8, a study concludes that more research is needed into how pot farming could hurt the environment.

The study found that siting grows in areas with better access to roads, gentler slopes, and ample water resources could reduce threats to the environment.

The study highlights a “lack of published, peer-reviewed empirical research on all aspects of cannabis agriculture.”

It was conducted by Jake Brenner, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences at Ithaca College, and Van Bustic, a specialist at the University of California Cooperative Extension.

The study found that fish can be harmed from a decrease in water flow as a result of pot farming.

Brenner and Bustic looked at grow sites in three northern California counties.

“Siting grows in areas with better access to roads, gentler slopes, and ample water resources could significantly reduce threats to the environment,” the study said. “Future cannabis policy should take into consideration the potential for mitigating environmental impacts through land-use planning.”

Two decades ago California was the first state to allow medical marijuana. Now, voters are expected to be asked whether to legalize recreational use of the drug. The legalization measure is most likely to qualify for the statewide November ballot.

The study comes as voters in five states – California, Arizona, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada – will decide whether to fully legalize and regulate marijuana on Election Day. They would join four states that already allow using the drug for recreational purposes: Washington, Colorado, Alaska and Oregon.

In addition, voters in Florida, North Dakota and Arkansas will decide whether to approve marijuana for medical use, while Montana residents will vote on whether to loosen restrictions on its current medical marijuana laws. Twenty-five states have already approved medical marijuana.

Rob Hotakainen: 202-383-6154, @HotakainenRob

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