Is Legal Pot the Newest ‘Green’ Crop?

Regulating marijuana the same way as other crops encourages stricter compliance with laws governing wetland conversion, air and water pollution and land use, says a University of Buffalo researcher.

Legalizing marijuana will benefit the environment, says a researcher at the University of Buffalo Law School.

While the debate over legal marijuana continues to roil the country, most environmental experts agree that illegal cultivation of pot adds to the pressures on land use, ranging from the use of pesticides to the diversion of water sources, writes Jessica Owley in a study published last week.

“Legalization of marijuana has brought its production out of federal forests and individuals’ basements and closets and into large-scale agricultural production,” Owley writes.

“In some ways, the legitimation of the process makes it less likely to be environmentally destructive.”

Owley argues that if marijuana were regulated the same way as other crops, it will encourage stricter oversight of the growing process, including monitoring compliance with laws governing wetland conversion, air pollution and local land use.

But the paper also acknowledges that spreading commercial cultivation of marijuana can also conflict with the imperative to maintain protected lands and open space—as well as push out other crops mportant to the environment and local economy.

In Palisade, Colo., for example, peach orchards were replaced by marijuana fields.

Owley cautions that the current ambiguity about the federal government’s attitude towards pot growers in states where it is now legal should make land trusts and agricultural protection organization think twice before granting use of their lands for pot cultivation.

This would put “both the land and their operations at risk,” she writes.

The full report is available here.

For a view on the dangers posed to the nation’s wildlands by illegal pot growers, see TCR “Fighting Drug Cartels in California’s Emerald Triangle,” Aug 14, 2017.

This summary was prepared by TCR news intern Megan Hadley. Readers’ comments are welcome.