In 2008, Katie Arnoldi volunteered for a team in charge of cleaning up emptied marijuana sites on public lands in California. On one single operation, they “pulled out 27 miles of irrigation pipes, and over 2,000 pounds of fertilizer, pesticides, rodenticides and hundreds of bags of trash.” In the first of a five-part series, she describes what she saw:
When I got into the active grow-sites, I was struck by the fact that there was absolutely nothing alive. No bugs. No animals. No snakes or lizards. Every single site was a dead zone except for the thriving, chemically drenched plants. And the thing is, all these chemicals leach into the soil. And then when the rains come they’re washed into the drainages where they pollute the waterways and kill the fish. Ultimately it all ends up in the ocean. These pot farms are permanently destroying our protected wilderness.
Even more disturbing, we are inhaling the results:
According to a 2010 HIDTA report, California supplied three-quarters of all marijuana to the US market. Most of the pot was coming directly from the huge cartel grows. People are smoking these terrible chemicals and they don’t even know it. When I worked on the Growsite Reclamation Team, I helped collect samples of the fertilizers, pesticides and rodenticides so that they could be analyzed by a lab. The results were scary. For instance, the lab determined that a quarter teaspoon of one of the Mexican pesticides, found out in the foothills of the Sierras near Sequoia, was so toxic that it in its undiluted form it could kill a 200-pound man. The growers will take a big scoop of this stuff, mix it with water, and spray their crops on a regular basis. That’s what people are smoking. Who knows what the long-term consequences will be?