Cultivating cannabis for commercial production in remote locations is creating forest fragmentation, stream modification, soil erosion and landslides, says a new study conducted by a group of scientists from California. According to the study, the destructive impact of cannabis farming is due to the lack of proper land use policies to limits its environmental footprint.
For this study, they have made an assessment of landscape changes resulting from new agriculture activities. The scientists compared the effects of cannabis cultivation to those of timber harvest from 2000 to 2013 in Humboldt County of California. Based on the size, shape and placement of the cannabis grows among 62 randomly selected watersheds, they quantified the impacts relative to those of timber harvest. They found that although timber has greater landscape impacts overall, cannabis causes far greater changes in key metrics on a per-unit-area basis. Its growth resulted in 1.5 times more forest loss and 2.5 times greater fragmentation of the landscape, breaking up large, contiguous forest into smaller patches and reducing wildlife habitat.
According to the scientists, to mitigate these impacts, policymakers and planners need to enact specific environmental and land-use regulations to control cannabis crop expansion during its early stages.
As either a medicinal or recreational drug, cannabis is legally cultivated in several countries. The study was published in the November issue of 'Frontiers in Ecology and Environment' journal.