California wildlife and water supplies are in danger, according to researchers and federal officials who say that nine out of ten illegal cannabis cultivation sites in California are using potentially hazordous pesticides. As first reported by the Associated Press, scientists found 89% of unlicensed grows tested have been confirmed or are strongly suspected to be contaminated with “highly deadly toxic chemicals.” This is an alarming jump from 75% in 2016 and six times higher than 2012.
Authorities in California raided 95 illegal cultivation sites in 2017, finding hundreds of pounds of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. One site saw gallons of carbofuran being added to irrigation systems, which ultimately could contaminate local water sources. Integral Ecology Research Center scientist Mourad Gabriel, one of the lead researchers of the study, said the pesticide is “so powerful that a quarter-teaspoon can kill a 300-pound bear.”
Many of the illegal grows in California are hidden deep within wooded areas. Forest rangers have an extensive backlog of contaminated sites to clean up - 830 to be exact. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra says that the presence of carbofuran and other dangerous chemicals pose a risk to work crews, which is why the process is taking so long.
“If they go in and there’s a certain level of toxicity, they just have to back away and then let time go by before they can safely go in and try to do the reclamation,” he told the Associated Press.
Even short-term exposure to chemicals like carbofuran can lead to nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, sweating, diarrhea, excessive salivation, weakness, imbalance, blurring of vision, breathing difficulty, increased blood pressure and incontinence. In a press conference, Becerra stressed that it is the ecological threat illegal marijuana grows pose that lead to a recent crackdown.
“This isn’t about the marijuana, it’s about the damage that’s being done,” he said. “What is happening here is illegal under anybody’s law.”
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