Sacramento, California- Black market cannabis growers in California are utilizing dangerous pesticides more and more according to new research.
Researcher Mourad Gabriel, of the Integral Ecology Research Center, is one of the few researchers examining the environmental impact of illegal cannabis grow operations. He told the Associated Press that 72 percent of illegal grow sites he analyzed were found to be contaminated by carbofuran.
The findings have promoted California and federal officials to work together in targeting illegal grow sites. The agreement will see $2.5 million federal dollars be allocated toward conducting the operations.
While the idea of state officials working with federal authorities on shutting down cannabis grow operations may cause anxiety for members of the industry, U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott has said his top priority is to focus on the grow sites that are not sanctioned by California officials. Scott says the intention is not on tearing down California’s new legal recreational cannabis market.
“The reality of the situation is there is so much black market marijuana in California that we could use all of our resources going after just the black market and never get there,” Scott told the Associated Press.
“So, for right now, our priorities are to focus on what have been historically our federal law enforcement priorities: interstate trafficking, organized crime and the federal public lands,” Scott continued.
Most of the cannabis grown illegally is shipped to other states, especially those located in the Midwest and East Coast where cannabis is not always legally available. However, due to high tax rates, low inventory, and local bans on dispensaries, even many Californian residents have turned to the black market.
“You’ve got to make it so crime doesn’t pay,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said.
There is more at risk than contaminated cannabis. Many of the grow sites are located in California’s forests. Approximately 60 percent of California’s drinking water flows through these areas. Gabriel found that 40 percent of the water sampled was contaminated.
Carbofuran is not legal in the United States. According to Gabriel, one-quarter of a teaspoon could kill a 300-pound bear.
The potency could be a large part of the appeal for growers.
“What they are saying to us is this is extremely effective – it takes a little amount to kill a deer or a bear – so we don’t need to bring a lot of it to last a season,” Gabriel said.