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Good old American regulations can save our wilderness from rogue marijuana farms

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POSTED December 27, 2012 12:48 a.m.

Where are the Greenpeace folks when you need them?

Scientists have come to the conclusion that the boom in rogue pot farms due to legalizing marijuana for medical use in California is raising havoc on some of the state’s most cherished wilderness and rare species.

Here’s a quick sampling of how medical marijuana is helping destroy California’s environment:

• Once pristine mountain tops in California’s redwood forests have been graded for greenhouses and trees illegally chopped down.

• About 18 million gallons of water are being diverted annually from the spawning grounds for the endangered Coho salmon from an Eel River tributary in order to irrigate pot crops in 567 outdoor farms and greenhouses in a 37-square-mile area.

• Runoff from potting soil and fertilizer used in illegal forest pot grows has increased toxic algae blooms in North Coast Rivers. That, in turn, has created cyanobacteria outbreaks that have killed 11 dogs so far, destroyed food that salmon and steelhead trout eat, and created public health concerns for swimmers.

• Rampant runoff of fertilizers, diesel fuel, human waste, fungicides, soil amendments and plant hormones are seeping into the soil and water tables.

• A rare forest carnivore known as a fisher near Yosemite is being poisoned by the dozens after ingesting rodenticide used by pot growers.

• Medical pot is also increasing California’s carbon footprint accounting for as much as 9 percent of California’s electricity use based on a study published in the Energy Policy journal.

Then there’s the little detail of commandeering protected state and federal land to run a business for which they don’t pay taxes

You can bet all the Acapulco Gold you want that if a farmer was doing any of the aforementioned Greenpeace types would be manning the barricades and exposing them on 60 Minutes.

The Environmental Protection Agency would have seized all of their assets by now just as they did the property of a Taiwanese immigrant farmer near Fresno over a decade ago. The farmer committed the environmental sin of plowing over acreage Uncle Sam suspected was home to kangaroo rats.

So why do illegal pot farms get a pass for large-scale environmental damage?

The answer is simple. The federal government hasn’t sent in the heavy artillery. When they wanted to get Al Capone, the FBI was powerless. That’s why they got the IRS to finishing off the Capone crime empire.

If the government is serious about nailing illegal pot growers, they’d pull out the Drug Enforcement Agency and send in the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA doesn’t mess around. Much like the IRS they’ve been known to use police-like powers and operate on the assumption one is guilty until you can prove otherwise and even then they won’t let you go.

Traditional law enforcement operates within the constitution. Enforcement branches of super federal bureaucracies don’t make a distinction between the Bill of Rights and toilet paper.

The wanton dumping of toxins in the wilderness must stop.

And the most effective way to do that is to legalize large pot grow operations and then create a bureaucracy to dictate every step of the grow process complete with inspectors and enforcement penalties.

If the federal government follows true to form, it’ll force the marijuana industry to follow the solution that other American manufacturers have pursued. Virtually all large-scale grows and their jobs will be exported overseas.

And to assure that the government doesn’t increase more illegal drug movements into the country, they can give the pot growing importers tax credits while heavily taxing American grown pot.

Give the EPA and Uncle Sam a decade or so and they can eradicate our wilderness of illicit pot farms in the same way they have cleared much of the country of heavy manufacturing.

This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209-249-3519.

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