Ending pot prohibition

Undoing the unintended consequences of illegality

The CN&R has long been writing about the environmental degradation happening in Butte County and beyond due to the proliferation of marijuana farms in nonagricultural regions, the foothills in particular.

Pot profiteers don’t grow there because the soil is good and the water is bountiful. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Clay soil isn’t hospitable to the plants and there’s a dearth of water to feed them. In truth, the reason cannabis cultivators have chosen to grow in the mountainous regions of the state is to shield their operations from law enforcement by setting up shop among the trees and other greenery that cover the landscape.

Only these days, it’s impossible for them to go unnoticed. There are simply too many people attempting to cash in on the pot trade during this Gold Rush era in the realm of marijuana. The foothills, as described in this week’s Cover feature (see “Blame the policy, not the plant,” page 20), are dotted with extensive grows on clear-cut hilltops where cultivators are siphoning water from already limited supplies, leaching chemical fertilizers into nearby watersheds, and poisoning wildlife.

So, what’s the answer? As we’ve said time and time again, the only way to truly solve the environmental harms resulting from the proliferation of pot grows is to legalize marijuana. That will bring cultivation into the open, eliminating the unintended consequences of illegality, including blight to the earth as well as crime.

A move to legalize has slowly been gaining steam as the public and lawmakers come to realize that prohibition serves only to keep the profit motive in place. Indeed, even Butte County Supervisor Bill Connelly, who has seen firsthand the consequences of the war on drugs, in his District 1, which includes Oroville and the eastern foothills, is calling for legalization. He is joining a cadre of other conservatives who have seen the light. We encourage other local lawmakers to take up the cause.