The use of toxic chemicals like pesticides and insecticides has long been one of the biggest dangers associated with cannabis. When growers—whether legal or illegal—use harmful chemicals it can be dangerous for the local environment and for whoever ends up smoking the weed. Now, it looks like this could be a bigger problem than ever before. According to authorities, the use of toxic pesticides increased in California’s illegal weed farms in recent years.
An Alarming Trend
As per the Associated Press, researchers and federal authorities recently raised the alarm about toxic pesticides. In particular, they reported an alarming uptick in the frequency of toxic pesticides found at illegal grow sites in California.
While there are a wide range of pesticides and insecticides that can be dangerous, authorities are especially worried about one specific chemical: Carbofuran.
Carbofuran is a super potent and highly toxic chemical originally intended to kill insects that eat crops. It is incredibly poisonous and in many places where it’s used, it ends up killing much more than just insects.
It is so strong, a single grain can reportedly kill a bird. Similarly, small amounts are known to kill mammals like rats and dogs. In fact, it’s been reported that a quarter teaspoon of the chemical can kill a 300-pound bear.
Carbofuran has been banned in many countries, including the United States, Canada, and the European Union. But now, this highly dangerous chemical is showing up at illegal marijuana grow sites in California at an alarming rate.
According to the new reports, Carbofuran has been found at 72 percent of the grow site’s discovered in California last year. That represents a dramatic spike from past years. For example, the pesticide was present at only 15 percent of illegal grow sites in 2012.
Additionally, many sites have been found to use highly concentrated forms of the chemical, possibly making it even more dangerous.
Consequences of Chemical-Tainted Cannabis
Researchers and authorities are worried about the implications of so much Carbofuran being used in California’s wilderness.
For starters, these types of chemicals have long tainted cannabis that ends up getting shipped all over the country. The people who buy and consume the weed have no way of knowing what’s in the product they’re smoking or if contaminants will produce any negative side effects.
Similarly, the use of Carbofuran and other chemicals is extremely harmful to California’s environment. Insecticides and pesticides can poison waterways and kill fish. Similarly, these types of chemicals can end up killing mass amounts of birds.
And when chemicals are used in concentrated forms, it takes longer to break down. This increases the chance that larger animals might ingest the chemicals.
In particular, many researchers have expressed concern that chemicals like Carbofuran could cause significant harm to a small, carnivorous mammal called the fisher, which is highly endangered in the state. There are only a few hundred of these animals left in California, and illegal grow sites have been a contributing factor in their disappearance.
After discovering the prevalence of Carbofuran, law enforcement and environmental agencies are working to crack down on illegal grow sites. California state officials and federal officials said they will team up in the effort. Additionally, $2.5 million has been earmarked to find illegal grow sites.