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The criminalization of cannabis is bad for the environment. For decades, unregulated and illicit cannabis cultivation meant harvesting crops in precious forests, parks and remote areas that are singled out for preservation. As the demand for pot grows, we could face harsher environmental repercussions if federal drug enforcement continues. Legalizing pot would allow for regulated grow areas, higher quality cannabis, less environmental impact and meet higher standards for the use and disposal of toxic substances that are causing harm to natural habitats.

1. Illegal growers use dangerous chemicals

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In California, illegal growers’ use of toxic pesticides and rodenticides to protect their marijuana crops are posing a threat to the region’s environmental safety.

The substances have become detrimentally harmful to wildlife in the area who come anywhere near cultivation sites, not to mention that they are upsetting the ecological balance of the area.

Preservationists are finding that chemicals are seeping into much of the land’s soil, where they can easily make their way into nearby streams and rivers, poisoning local fish and the animals that consume them.

The potential impacts on humans is equally alarming. Most toxic substances are left scattered throughout forests where those who lack knowledge of the chemicals are left vulnerable to unsafe contact.

Carbofuran, a popular substance used to kill off rodents, causes symptoms ranging from nausea, to convulsions, right on up to sudden death. Chemical leaks into nearby water sources can eventually bleed into small towns and cities as well; poisoning the water supply.

2. Local cultivators could safely maintain inventory

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According to environmentalist Scott Gracen, pot regulation would allow small-time growers to become registered and contribute to the growing industry. He believes that this would undermine the black market and lead to reduced environmental strains on these impacted areas.

You’re going to get a higher quality product and better environmental performance from more small production.

It’s when you go to high-volume production, you lose quality and you have to use chemical crutches.

3. Cannabis smugglers produce harmful emissions

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Nikki Gloudeman, senior fellow at Mother Jones magazine says that legalization would also benefit the environment by reducing many of the harmful smuggling practices used by drug cartels.

Cartels routinely use generators, diesel storage tanks, and animal poison to preserve their cache, when the border area is surrounded by more than 4 million acres of sensitive federal wilderness.

4. Indoor grow houses consume tons of energy

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Currently, 1% of U.S. electricity consumption comes from indoor cannabis cultivation. While it may not sound like much, that energy expenditure equates to $6 billion per year and produces the same amount of CO2 emissions in one year as 3 million standard vehicles.

Pot legalization would move much of this production out into the open. This way, cultivators can quit using artificial light and opt for the photosynthesis provided by natural sunlight.

John Krocer, owner of Colorado medical marijuana dispensary, River Rock told CBS Denver,

Energy consumption in this business is pretty astronomical. As this industry expands at its current pace I do believe that we will be a tax on the energy grid: something has to change.

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