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Marijuana farms come at a high cost: $3.3 million

Marijuana legalization advocates contend that the weed is harmless. Hardly.

As advocates contemplate an initiative that would further commercialize marijuana, Gov. Jerry Brown is earmarking $3.3 million to curb the environmental degradation caused by its cultivation. The effort is long past due.

In his budget released last week, the governor proposes to assign 11 state water board and seven Fish and Wildlife inspectors and investigators to confront the problem.

“Currently, marijuana cultivation is threatening water supply, water quality and the sensitive habitat of endangered species,” the governor’s budget summary says.

The addition of the money is a testament to Republican Assemblyman Dan Logue’s persistence.

Liberal environmentalist groups would never count Logue as one of their pets. But unlike many establishment environmentalists and Democratic legislators who claim to be environmentalists, the Butte County lawmaker became outraged at how legal and illegal growers brazenly tear out trees and cut terraces into mountainsides to grow their crops. They also make heavy use of chemical fertilizers and rat poison, polluting waterways and killing wildlife.

Logue has been pushing the administration to step in, while Democrats sat silently, probably not wanting to upset marijuana advocates, many of whom support Democratic politicians.

As The Sacramento Bee wrote in an editorial in August: “For decades, California lawmakers have imposed ever tighter restrictions on logging, farming, and other activities that can foul water and damage the environment. But they aren’t showing the same aggressiveness about halting damage being done by marijuana farmers. That timidity needs to end.”

Brown has taken a step toward dealing with the issue. Democratic lawmakers who control the Legislature should embrace the proposal. While they’re at it, they should thank Logue for being politically incorrect enough to bring the issue to the fore.