Salmonid Restoration Federation

Environmental Impacts of Cannabis Cultivation

July 10, 2020: We have updated the name of this page from "marijuana" to "cannabis" to acknowledge current industry practices and the historical oppression rooted in the term "marijuana". Growing cannabis in California is fundamentally a racial justice issue, in addition to being an environmental issue. Please explore these links for more information:

Is the Word 'Marijuana' Racist? (YouTube video)
Marijuana: is it time to stop using a word with racist roots? (The Guardian)
Race and the Drug War (Drug Policy Alliance)


California Cannabis Portal:

Humboldt County Commercial Cannabis students/Ponce.finalthesis.spring18-.pdf

State Water Boards Cannabis Cultivation

Mendocino Resource Conservation District. 2016. "Watershed Best Management Practices for Cannabis Growers and other Rural Gardeners."

Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) and Mad River Alliance's "2016 Farmer's Compliance Handbook."

Pre-Legalization (2016)

Barringer, F. 2013. “Marijuana crops in California threaten forests and wildlife.” New York Times, 20 June 2013.

Bauer, S., J. Olson, A. Cockrill, M. van Hattem, L. Miller, M. Tauzer, and G. Leppig. 2015. Impacts of Surface Water Diversions for Marijuana Cultivation on Aquatic Habitat in Four Northwestern California Watersheds. PLoS ONE 10:e0120016. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0120016.

Bland, A. 2014. “California’s pot farms could leave salmon runs truly smoked.” NPR, The Salt, 13 January 2014.

Burns, R. 2012. “Downy calls for backup: Overwhelmed by marijuana the county sheriff looks to the feds for help.” 26 July 2012.

Butsic, V. and J.C. Brenner. 2016. Cannabis (Cannabis Sativa or C. Indica) Agriculture and the Environment: A Systematic, Spatially-Explicit Survey and Potential Impacts. Environmental Research Letters 11:044023. doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/11/4/044023.

Caldwell, A. A. and M. Valdes. 2010. “Public lands sprouting marijuana farms.” San Francisco Gate, 14 March 2010.

“Cannabis farming in California using so much water it could wipe out salmon population, biologists warn.” The Independenct, 5 October 2014.

Carah, J.K., J.K. Howard, S.E. Thompson, S. Gianotti, A. G, S.D. Bauer, S.M. Carlson, D.N. Dralle, M.W. Gabriel, L.L. Hulette, B.J. Johnson, C.A. Knight, S.J. Kupferberg, S.L. Martin, R.L. Naylor, and M.E. Power. 2015. High Time for Conservation: Adding the Environment to the Debate on Marijuana Liberalization. BioScience 65:822–829. doi: 10.1093/biosci/biv083.

Environ challenges marijuana ag in age of prohibition:

Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) and Mad River Alliance's "2016 Farmer's Compliance Handbook."

Gabriel, M. W., L. W. Woods, et al. 2012. Anticoagulant rodenticides on our public and community lands: Spatial distribution of exposure and poisoning of a rare forest carnivore. PLoS ONE, Vol. 7, Issue 7, e40163.

Gerken, T. 2012 “Cannabis carbon footprint: Marijuana industry’s environmental impact.” Huffington Post, 27 August 2012.

Greenson, T. 2012. “Push for pot regulation; amid federal activity, many still support oversight, regulation of pot industry.” The Times Standard, 9 September 2012.

Greenson, T. “A ‘huge, huge mess;’ officials talk environmental impacts of marijuana, and the need for more study, clean up.” The Times Standard, 9 September, 2012.

Greenson, T. 2013. “‘We can’t turn a blind eye anymore;’ feds, local law enforcement promise ‘hot and heavy’ season of pot busts.” The Times Standard, 26 August 2013.

“Half-baked idea?: Legalizing marijuana will help the environment.” Scientific American, 20 May 2011.

Harkinson, J. 2013. “How industrial pot growers ravage the land: A Google Earth tour.” Mother Jones, 6 February 2013.

How Changing Marijuana Laws May Affect California’s Water and Wildlife:

M. Mallery. 2010. Marijuana national forests: Encroachment on California public lands for cannabis cultivation. Berkeley Undergraduate Journal, Vol. 23, Issue 2.

North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board's Cannabis Cultivation Waste Discharge Regulatory Program.

Patterson, Brittany. 2015. "California's 50,000 Pot Farms Are Sucking Rivers Dry." Scientific American, 3 July 2015.

Service, S. 2010. “Pot: Not so green afterall.” PBS, Need to Know, 21 May 2010.

UC Davis. 2012. “Poisons of public lands put wildlife at risk”.13 July 2012.

Welsh, J. 2011. “Pot growers destroying national forests.” Live Science, 12 December 2011.