EDITORIAL: Pot growers must be stopped from harming environment

FresnoJanuary 16, 2014 

Marijuana legalization advocates contend that the weed is harmless.

Hardly.

As advocates contemplate an initiative that would further commercialize marijuana, Gov. Jerry Brown is earmarking $3.3 million to curb the environmental degradation caused by its cultivation. The effort is long past due.

In his budget released last week, the governor proposes to assign 11 state water board and seven Fish and Wildlife inspectors and investigators to confront the problem.

"Currently, marijuana cultivation is threatening water supply, water quality and the sensitive habitat of endangered species," the governor's budget summary says.

The addition of the money is a testament to the persistence of Dan Logue, a Republican Assembly member from Marysville.

Liberal environmentalist groups would never count Logue as one of their pets.

But unlike many establishment environmentalists and Democratic legislators who claim to be environmentalists, the Butte County lawmaker became outraged at how legal and illegal growers brazenly tear out trees and cut terraces into mountainsides so that they can grow their crops in the full sun. They also make heavy use of chemical fertilizers and rat poison, polluting waterways and killing wildlife.

The problem isn't confined to the northern reaches of California, either. Here in the central San Joaquin Valley, the destruction to the environment caused by marijuana growers can be seen on our ag lands and throughout the foothills.

Moreover, the harm caused by marijuana growers extends into one of nature's greatest wonders, the Sierra National Forest.

Logue rightfully has been pushing the Brown administration to step in, while Democrats sat silently, probably not wanting to upset marijuana advocates, many of whom support Democratic politicians.

As we wrote on Aug. 14 of last year: "For decades, California lawmakers have imposed ever-tighter restrictions on logging, farming and other activities that can foul water and damage the environment. But they aren't showing the same aggressiveness about halting damage being done by marijuana farmers. That timidity needs to end.

"Proponents of medical marijuana and marijuana legalization want their harvest to be treated like other commercial products. However, too often they ignore the most basic rules that other farmers follow."

Brown has taken a step toward dealing with the issue. Democratic lawmakers who control the Legislature should embrace the proposal.

While they're at it, they should thank Logue for being politically incorrect enough to bring the issue to the fore.

 

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