California is a front runner in terms of cannabis legalization. The industry is projected to be worth in the region of $5 billion, far more than any other state. As a progressive and liberal state, the people in California want access to their marijuana and don’t see any reason why they should be denied this access due to corporate and pharmaceutical interests. In a way, California are to be admired for leading the way.
But others have cautioned that it is happening a little too fast and that California is running into problems. Other states are waiting to see how recreational marijuana fares in the likes of California and will implement in a few years. As wonderful as cannabis is, it does have problems, particularly if it is rushed into society without taking the time to properly integrate all the rules and regulations. Some researchers have estimated that marijuana supply is eight times greater than supply, while others have said the figure is closer to twelve. In anticipation of the legalization of recreational in January 2018 (when Proposition 64 comes into place, meaning that marijuana can be sold in commercial outlets), many have been eager to jump on the commercial gravy train of marijuana, meaning that there is too much available marijuana. Marijuana is incredibly energy and nutrient intensive to cultivate, and it would be a terrible waste to let it all go stale if the estimates are correct. This could be what happens when there is too much hype and enthusiasm.
The California Pesticide Problem
Of much more concern is the pesticide problem associated with marijuana that has not been properly regulated. In some regions of California, such as Humboldt County, there are thousands of illegal growers. These illegal growers do not regulate their products, and the side effects of illegal marijuana operations are absolutely disastrous from an environmental perspective. While many associate marijuana legalization with the growing organic, ecofriendly and vegan movement, all loosely lumped together as a kind of vague individual freedom, there is nothing environmentally friendly about wasting tones of electricity, diverting streams and leaving wastelands of marijuana that has not been properly disposed of. These wastelands are toxic in a very real sense. And then there is the issue of toxins and quality. Illegal pot operations do not adhere to any sort of standards or certifications. The result is that some California pot is of a very low quality and quite high in deadly toxins. This is not idle fearmongering; It is very important to get the highest quality pot you can find, especially since you now have this option as you no longer have to go down the black-market avenue to obtain your harmless plant matter. To quote from The Atlantic on the pesticide problem in California:
“The lethal poisons growers use to protect their crops and campsites from pests are annihilating wildlife, polluting pristine public lands, and maybe even turning up in your next bong hit.”
“…grow sites tested positive for carbofuran, a neurotoxic insecticide that is so nasty it has been banned in the U.S., Canada and the EU. Farmers in Kenya have used it to kill lions. Symptoms of exposure range from nausea and blurred vision to convulsions, spontaneous abortions, and death….”
“Some 50 different toxicants have turned up at grow sites… Growers use the poisons to keep rodents and other animals from eating the sugar-rich sprouting plants, from gnawing on irrigation tubing, and from invading their campsites in search of food. Acute rodenticides cause neurological damage and internal bleeding. Animals literally drown in their own blood or stumble around until they’re eaten themselves, passing the poison up the food chain to predators like owls and fishers.”
According to Craig Thompson, a wildlife ecologist at the US Forest Service “People don’t tend to grasp the industrial scale of what’s going on. There are thousands of these sites in places the public thinks are pristine, with obscene amounts of chemicals at each one. Each one is a little environmental disaster”. The real danger occurs when the toxic runoff from these sites makes its way into public water supply, as well as organophosphates, nerve agents used to make chemical weapons and insecticides.
Cleaning up the Marijuana Market
Thankfully, a cleanup is in sight. Come January Second, consumers will have two options. They can either pay for a quality marijuana product that has been tested so that it is chemical free. Or they can pay much less for unregulated marijuana. What is not quite known is that the majority of growers in California are not ready to grow without pesticides. It takes far more time, effort, and skill, and there are far more ways to fail.
The increase of regulatory standards is great news for the whole industry. What it means is that most poor quality and illegal growers are going to go out of business and only the best will remain, supplying top quality tested marijuana to consumers that has been produced efficiently and with the environment in mind. Those who entered the marijuana market lightly could well regret their decision. Most of those who go out of business are illegal growing operations, as California is home to many illegal immigrants, who usually go down a historically profitable route of marijuana cultivation.
But get rich quick newcomers will also take quite a beating, as well as those who are vying to become large scale industrial cannabis cultivators. All of the extra, low quality, toxin laden weed will end up in the hands of people who cannot afford higher quality weed or teenagers who are not able to get it anywhere else. Given time, the free market will sort out the California’s marijuana pesticide problem.