In the drought-ridden state of California, illegal pot farmers have been harming the watersheds, wildlife, and endangered species with the pollution runoff from their pot growing operations. While California was the first state to legalize the use of medical marijuana, the state is now struggling with environmental enforcement as illegal farms pollute the state’s waterways, poisoning the endangered salmon, steelhead trout, and Pacific fish. Unscrupulous growers who are unwilling to pay taxes or pay for permits have remained a problem. They are also likely exporting their marijuana across state lines to sell.
Because marijuana still remains illegal under federal law, farms stay hidden in forested, undeveloped watersheds so as not to gain the attention of federal authorities. The runoff of pesticides, THC, etc. from these farms has poisoned wildlife, and the water diversions from streams to water the plants have exacerbated the state’s drought and disturbed the surrounding ecosystem that depends on the water.
Legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October calls for the state to start regulating the cultivation industry and begin issuing permits for commercial growers in 2018. California will award licenses to commercial growers who also have local permits that are approved by the city, as an attempt to discourage backwoods, illegal farms.