Legalization or decriminalization of cannabis has seen a rise throughout the last decade. However, learning where cannabis is grown and what effects, if any, it has on wildlife is not easy. Some of the known side-effects of cannabis cultivation include land clearing, diversion of surface water, pesticide use, and wildlife poaching.
But this is very much the beginning of our understanding of the environmental effects of large-scale cannabis cultivation. We know even less about wildlife’s interactions with cannabis plantations. Much of the little knowledge we have is based on information gleaned directly or indirectly from illicit cannabis grows.
Previous research on the effects of cannabis plantations on wildlife have been incidental: a fisher found dead in a remote part of Sierra Nevada, California, whose necropsy revealed it had died from rodenticide poisoning; a spotted owl found dead in Humboldt County, California, who died of emaciation and parasitism, with significant amounts of rodenticide in its liver and blood. These findings were eventually related to illicit cannabis grows, where pesticides (among other environmental transgressions) are used without any regulatory control.
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