Going to Pot: A Look at Local Marijuana Practices and How They Affect the Environment

201504600 greenhouses Greenhouses [Photo from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office.]

On April 18, an article about how the marijuana “green rush” has damaged our local environment appeared in Takepart, an independent online news site that works to promote positive social change. We’ve received permission to reprint the article. But knowing mere words can’t compete with the lush photos and dramatic videos that accompany the writing, we’re only going to share a bit from near the beginning to entice you to follow this link to the actual article.

The author of “Going to Pot” begins by describing a flight over Humboldt:

With California poised to fully legalize marijuana, a “green rush” has hit Humboldt as outsiders—Bulgarians, Laotians, Texans—flood into the county and set up industrial-scale marijuana farms. The environmental impact from more than 4,000 pot “gardens” is ravaging the redwood ecosystem that Humboldt environmentalists have spent decades fighting to save and restore. And not just in Humboldt. The marijuana boom in the two other pot-growing counties that form California’s Emerald Triangle threatens a wide swath of the state’s woodlands. Like forests worldwide endangered by development, Humboldt County’s redwoods absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide, making them crucial to the fight against climate change.

“The single biggest threat to our environment right now has been unregulated cannabis,” says Natalynne DeLapp, executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center, a grassroots group that spearheaded the effort to protect the Headwaters and its wildlife. “In the last 20 years we’ve seen a massive exponential growth in cannabis production in the hills of Humboldt County, and we’ve seen really devastating environmental effects.” Growers have fragmented forests by cutting trees to build greenhouses and roads on steep hillsides, choking creeks home to endangered salmon with sediment, fertilizers, and pesticides and sucking streams dry during a record drought to irrigate marijuana crops. Once-still forests echo with the racket of hundreds of diesel generators. Rat poison and other toxic chemicals used by some growers to protect their plants are killing rare wildlife like the Pacific fisher.

“It’s just been really sad, actually, really sad to see what’s happened to the environment and a lot of work people have put into restoration efforts, to see those things unravel because people continue to bulldoze hillsides for clearings to grow more cannabis,” DeLapp says.

In a community where there long has been a very thin green line between environmentalists and marijuana growers, DeLapp, 35, is leading a campaign to regulate an out-of-control industry. She’s getting help from unlikely allies: a timber company and a group of marijuana farmers determined to create a truly green and sustainable cash crop.

Follow this link to read more. The site itself is gorgeous and the piece will likely evoke strong feelings. Then, please let us know what you think.
You should know this piece quotes commenters on Redheaded Blackbelt (was one of them you?) and makes the inaccurate claim that a pilot “posts a notice on the Redheaded Blackbelt blog” whenever he does a flyover(!!!) In addition, two advertisers on this site, Mark Harris and True Humboldt (the brand of the Humboldt Sun Growers Guild), are featured in the article.


  • Let’s not forget that a vast number of them pick up free social services meant for the needy despite their large undeclared income, oh and the crime that goes along with weed.

    • i dont know a single farmer that takes a government check. Further more grows are being legalized and people are paying taxes on their land as well as buying permits. Take your bullshit propaganda else where. Instead of crying why arnt you out making money. crime comes with any source of income in America where have you been the last 30 years? Get over the drug war you lost.

      • I agree . This bullshit propaganda that growers get welfare and don’t pay taxes is a joke . Sorry morons but when you buy acres of land and 60 thousand dollar trucks the irs wants their cut .

      • I don’t know a single grower who refers to himself as a farmer..

      • I know for a FACT that many families that “farm” for a living receive SNAP, CalFresh, MediCal and/or Covered California.
        If you are desperate enough to walk your ass into that hell hole on Koster St, something has happened that made you come in there. It is an awful place. Whether you end services with your harvest or you stay on because you have no declared income, is a choice an individual makes.
        Personally I would rather see my taxes feed some families and provide them with medical care than go to the dirty politicians throughout the state.
        Aid was set up to help those in need, if you walked into the 7th realm of hell known as the humboldt county health & human services dept, then you needed help.
        (No I’m not a grower and no I do not receive aid, I just work with a lot of families that do and no I don’t work with dhhs)

      • Well it’s not cool when bros are out there growing fat crops and have medi cal pay for all there medical bills you dig what I’m saying bra

    • lol, no they dont. Maybe their workers do, none of the MANY growers I know receive social services. Some get discounts on pg&e for having electric cars and use elec for indoor though, I’ll give you that, and in the past many abused the CARE program.

    • Its great that people are looking at this issue, if we could get the same type of attention for big agriculture that would be fantastic, since cannabis grows (as horrible as some are) a drop in the ocean compared to factory farming.

      • The article brings up some very important issues regarding land impacts from large marijuana grows but unfortunately there are some serious errors in the report that for me damage it’s credibility. It started to feel like mass, pulp sensation reporting.

        One item – It often refers to the land affected as “the redwood forest”. This is not true and seems to be said as more of a cliche type phrase not really representing the land diversity we have here; douglas fir , mixed hardwoods, grassland prairie.

        Another – EPIC (Environmental Protection Information Center) did not form to protest the ariel spraying of marijuana. It was ariel spraying of chemical herbicides (24D) on timberland that inspired folks to come together and form EPIC. In 1977. Considering the long in depth interviews with current EPIC staff I found that error extra odd.

        Several damaging impacts on our area were not discussed in the article – The Humboldt County Ordinance that allows “Mixed Light” grows with generators encourages and supports the use of fossil fuels that can not possibly be regulated in any meaningful way, with negative effects on air, water, wildlife and human neighbors. Besides going in the opposite direction than we need to go for climate change mitigations.

        It would be more consistent to treat the mixed light the same as indoor (in the ordinance) requiring it to be on the grid or the power to be produced with renewable energy.

        • 300 millions of years of seas, concentrating algalblooms, capped , compressed.its oil extracted in 8 generations of us burning the candle at both ends.wierld’s rolemodel.burning it up to be the most powerful nation……………

        • Sun grown or indoor

          Do you know where our power in Humboldt comes from Robbie? Giant diesel generators are what power Humboldt county. And the generators that power Humboldt county never shut off even if the draw is low but a diesel generator shuts off when not in use when a single family is living off grid is not using it. I would think they would not run the generator unless it would be powering lights and other things needed as to save on fuel costs. So mixed light would mean that when the sun is out the generator is shut off. It would only turn on when necessary making mixed light which uses the power of the sun when you can much better then indoor, which requires Giants diesel generators that never shut off. I guess the one thing is our grid is being underutilized so if we used more power as a county on the grid our fuel consumption to power use would be more effecent because the generators are never turning off and the power is being produced but unused. I just feel like unless you have taken some of your saving to put leds in your house and solar panels on your roof and other simple steps to reduce your own footprint here in the county (which is powered by diesel) then who are you to call someone else out when you live by the same fossil fuel they do. Whether you like or not we are all part of the problem. The very devices we use to read this blog come from precious resources from around the world shipped to China and the shipped to us which we buy from some corporate powerhouse so we can look at our shining digital screens. Most “farmers” I know own solar panels so they don’t have to run their generators unless necessary. They know where their water comes from and where it goes. It seems like people in urban areas complain about people living in the woods while they have no idea where their power, water, gas comes from. Or better yet where their waste goes. They flush their toliet and don’t even realize what it takes to create the system that handles all of that. The toliet fills back up with chlorinated fluoride filled water and away their waste goes. Not a care in the world, except about what others are doing instead of buying some solar panels of their own. Is giant indoors in the desert next to LA better then mixed light in Humboldt? It’s obvious at this point cannabis is only growing in demand and soon will be grown all over like never before. Does it need to be regulated? Absolutely. Does it need people that live off a diesel themselves to complain about someone else living off diesel?

          • In response to “Sun grown or indoor” –

            Marijuana does not need artificial light to grow big and flower and produce lots of usable or sellable bud.

            Glad to hear that most farmers you know use solar panels unless necessary.

            I can not support a county ordinance that allows generator use for growing in a green house or a house/building. It is unnecessary but has become popular because it allows people to make more money.
            I believe it is a mistake to encourage the use of fossil fuel for growing marijuana whether you are connected to the grid or not.
            But the negative impacts of growing with a generator off-grid affect us (neighbors) immediately and will have a much more personal effect on our lives – air quality, noise and light pollution, and serious fire dangers. Also increasing the use of generators running on fossil fuels increases the risks of spills, and all of this can/does have a negative impact on wildlife. That is why I prefer that “mixed light” be treated the same as indoor. Which in the ordinance is required to be grown with renewable energy or on the grid.

    • Fear of Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is unfounded. Not based on any science or fact whatsoever. So please prohibitionists, we beg you to give your scare tactics, “Conspiracy Theories” and “Doomsday Scenarios” over the inevitable Legalization of Marijuana Nationwide a rest. Nobody is buying them anymore these days. Okay?

      Furthermore, if all prohibitionists get when they look into that nice, big and shiny, crystal ball of theirs, while wondering about the future of marijuana legalization, is horror, doom, and despair, well then I suggest they return that thing as quickly as possible and reclaim the money they shelled out for it, since it’s obviously defective.

      The prohibition of marijuana has not decreased the supply nor the demand for marijuana at all. Not one single iota, and it never will. Just a huge and complete waste of our tax dollars to continue criminalizing citizens for choosing a natural, non-toxic, relatively benign plant proven to be much safer than alcohol.

      If prohibitionists are going to take it upon themselves to worry about “saving us all” from ourselves, then they need to start with the drug that causes more causes more detriment to our society than every other drug in the world COMBINED, which is alcohol!

      Why do prohibitionists feel the continued need to vilify and demonize marijuana when they could more wisely focus their efforts on a real, proven killer, alcohol, which again causes more detriment to our society than all other drugs, COMBINED?

      Prohibitionists really should get their priorities straight and/or practice a little live and let live. They’ll live longer, happier, and healthier lives, with a lot less stress if they refrain from being bent on trying to control others through Draconian Marijuana Laws.

  • Poor little innocent Fisher Animals. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=txdoUgli2FQ
    Fisher attacks silver fox.
    I see why Canada hunted them through the 90’s, even though the USA stopped in the 40’s. They’re abundant in the Northern America areas like Canada and Newfoundland. NorCal sees the trickle effect.
    Now that the pesticide awareness is growing, maybe they’ll make a strong comeback here. Would be nice to hear the sounds of nature in full stereo again like in the video.

  • Thank you, Kym, for giving this coverage. For communities, it’s the most relevant aspect of the legalization/legislation issue. Anyone who has been to the transfer station lately can see the enormous amounts and kinds of waste going into landfills from this area– and that’s from the growers who are responsible enough to haul it out of the watersheds. This problem needs education as well as limitations.

  • Thank you, RHBB, for always being on top of and reporting things that matter to us all here on the north coast. Without people like you, many stories would either never be brought to anyone’s attention or would be buried.
    I always appreciate you’re posts.

  • I encourage any who call this great green acre home to engage in prevention (alas now remediation due to inaction) of any further degradation of this phenomenal area which we are lucky to call home. Transgressors need be identified and called to account for the good of all. Contrarians may blame the man, but, bottom line is that we’re in this together and must insist we all maintain the social contract by doing right by their fellow citizens.

  • take a look at all the non us people , were I live the biggest growers are Europens , bying land for 2 X /3x times the value of the land , just to grow , and the police tern a blind eye , even whin it reported , pluse ther next parcel over gets busted , with a smaller grow 🤔, payed off ? I can see 10 from were I live 300 long 100 wide , glowing most of the night .

  • There is absolutely no doubt now that the majority of Americans want to completely legalize marijuana nationwide. Our numbers grow on a daily basis.

    The prohibitionist view on marijuana is the viewpoint of a minority and rapidly shrinking percentage of Americans. It is based upon decades of lies and propaganda.

    Each and every tired old lie they have propagated has been thoroughly proven false by both science and society.

    Their tired old rhetoric no longer holds any validity. The vast majority of Americans have seen through the sham of marijuana prohibition in this day and age. The number of prohibitionists left shrinks on a daily basis.

    With their credibility shattered, and their not so hidden agendas visible to a much wiser public, what’s left for a marijuana prohibitionist to do?

    Maybe, just come to terms with the fact that Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that’s approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think, and there is nothing they can do to stop it!

    Legalize Nationwide!…and Support All Marijuana Legalization Efforts!

    • You’re preaching to the choir re: the wisdom of legalization. I don’t think many RHBB readers think marijuana per se is evil. Maybe you missed the point of the article, crystallized in the headline: environmental practices.

      • The fact is…they,whoever… We’re not making enough money growing pot because of flooded markets that half way through last year they pulled up their pot and planted opium….now were really going to see our family’s and friends lives shattered…

        • The fact is…they,whoever… We’re not making enough money growing pot because of flooded markets that half way through last year they pulled up their pot and planted opium….now were really going to see our family’s and friends lives shattered… All homegrown

  • It’s to much work for enept police we have ,so bust the lil grows less work .born in Humboldt die in Humboldt been on this planet 56 yrs I’ve never scene it like this when I was a kid all you seen we logg trucks . Now all you see is truck loads of dirt on,a tremendous amounts. It’s gonna be prohibition . The man wants to reqalate well the bandit that dint want regulations will be doin it like the way .they always have . I hope all us old time farmers srike up there own brand that will clearly be far superior . To the man brand .

  • 90% of wierld’s oxygen is from algae.plants make 10%.what is huge is a bias created by drugproduction.soon to be replaced by synthesis and microbiological production.now that is too late.

  • Dope yuppies, Green Rushers. Ugh! Overkill is the American way. They pay a lot of sales tax and property tax. They keep a lot of construction guys going and spend a lot of money locally. If it weren’t for them our economic depression would be a lot worse. I have to admit, I have grown to RESENT the high profile crowd. I sit in my old runner of a car. In the parking lot of the local market, waiting for the wife. It seems like nine out of ten vehicles (At the fuel pumps) is a high rise super trucks, “Rolling Coal” as they pull out. How could these guys be hurting the environment. They look like hippies, I mean they’ve got dreads? They are merely products of our modern materialistic society. Like a lot of Americans, working really hard to be “GETTIN IT”. With out looking where they are going, or what they are doing. Jealous, maybe. I might think completely different if I was “GETTIN IT”. Human nature is a funny thing. Kind of miss the old time Humoldt. Still, I wouldn’t want live anyplace else. Mellow out folks. Keep it simple. Like the song say’s “Slow down, you move to fast”.

  • Yeah all that diesel fuel PL mass sprayed with their herbicides while stripping hillsides removing habitat really pales in comparison to grows.
    Insert sarcastic symbol.

    Really EPIC??? Where’s the press release on the impending logging coming to one of our last pristine areas, Rainbow Ridge in the Mattole? Oh who’s doing that cut? Green Diamond whom it sounds like EPIC is now working with!
    Where’s the talk about indoor scenes that have lite bulbs that can each pollute 50,000 gallons of water once broken. I’ve seen 5 broken in a creek where the guy was doing indoor deep in the hills and he polluted way more with lites and diesel spills. Not to mention the mix of illegal poison sprays going on all over the county indoors and making mites resistant while being dangerous to humans. We end up with mites and powdery mildew everywhere. Does EPIC not protect plants on their ecosystem work? Done with the EPIC contributions.
    Most folks feel like since EPIC is in no hum now they are orotecting

  • Yep EPIC sure knows about pot, this is the woman who answers their phones…..


  • Big Ballers Should Hire Locals Only!

    It’s time to stop the hating. Stop the fighting. What has been done is in the past. It is time to move into the future. It’s a Brave New World and marijuana is now regulated in Humboldt County. We can sit here and talk shit about all the people who made a fortune & didn’t get busted and we can continue to feel envious of there superior financial situation. We can either dwell on the past and what was either missed, lost or destroyed or we can look toward the future. We can all come together on one common denominator, we are Humboldt County/Emerald Triangle residents. We all have that in common & that should be the thread that unifies our community members. We need to now ALL work together to take Humboldt County to the top of the States marijuana producing counties. If we unify as opposed to fight we can become the leading county in the industry. This will NOT happen w/out cooperation from all parties. Not only will it take the poor people who missed the boat to stop hating, but it will also take those now in the driver seat to hire locally. It’s time for the big ballers who are now sitting pretty w/ potential multi million dollar legitimate businesses to hire locally. As a matter of fact there should be an ordinance that is similar to to what the local native tribes have for hiring. The Native Americans hire tribal members first. If you are a resident of Humboldt County you are a part of the Humboldt County Tribe. The residents of Humboldt should have the opportunity to be hired first for the new jobs. The ONLY way this will work out peacefully and beneficially for all citizens of Humboldt is if the new job opportunities in the legal MJ economy are offered to locals first. If the biggest growers(u know who u are) that are starting these huge “legal” businesses hire out of towners and not locals it will be a major slap in the face to those that have lived in Humboldt for all these years w/out taking part in degradation of our environment. The ones that followed the rules and followed the laws should be rewarded as well. The way this working out the most egregious growers are being rewarded the most. The biggest growers who have made the most money illegally and committed the biggest environmental infractions are now be rewarded for their deeds by having their multi million dollar scenes being “grand fathered” in. This has been a Big money grab for those w/ all the money. The ONLY way this works out well for all the citizens of the Emerald Triangle is if the new MJ economy provides much needed HIGH paying jobs for the locals. Many have been trying to survive on minimum wage and if they are lucky tips. There should be HIGH PAYING jobs made available to all the people who broke their backs making next to nothing to help the big ballers(big growers) succeed. If the jobs go to those from out county, out of State and even worse out of Country there will be major civil unrest and potential up rising against the marijuana machine that is now running our county.

  • I must say this- if just to be a part of this documentation: We saw huge “mega-grows” sprouting up. They were blatant and destructive- environmentally and socially. We allowed them to flourish and make lots of money. They were easy to see and would have been easy to chop down. Many in our community mistook their presence as something good and supported them against any ‘regulation’- at that time it would have been the police driving out and chopping them down removing the profit motive. We elected a district attorney who resisted police regulation because we thought he would protect smaller grower’s ability to grow in full sun and make lots of money. So…bigger and bigger grows made more and more money. They were rewarded for bad behavior! So more and more people came from all over the world to blow up bigger, yet greedier and destructive scenes. We allowed the situation and even encouraged it. I think this needs to be a part of the story. I’ve been here since the 70’s. I witnessed this. I discussed it with many old friends. It happened. And now…the story is almost over. PS- Many (not all) of the present “legitimate” growers pushing for regulations made their money with mega-grows and have not been here that long. Now they have lots of money to sink into “legal” grows and outcompete the folks who kept it small and tidy. And again people think they are “heroes”. Weird.

  • Were Screwed! “Call it paradise! And Kiss it GOODBYE!”

  • I’ve been in Southern Humboldt for 45 years and I can’t believe what is going on. The obscene amount of grow supplies amassed at Dayze’s is a sure sign that things are out of control. Another sign; the amount of earth moving equipment being hauled around , all day, every day. If I could wave a magic wand and make it all stop I would, it’s out of control….

    • peak growing yet?

    • Amen I commented about dazeys recently too. I guess the money gets ahold no matter how you make it. Like I said, just cuz you’re involved with pot don’t make you kind, and pot belongs to the kind. We’re not regulated. Never have been. Let the posers and Babylon agents be regulated [edit] Listen to your white boy reggae and smoke your clones.

  • Anyone care to help me register a small outdoor; 2500sq.’ including greenhouse, in honeydew? I left years ago cuz of the crowds and now my renter changed their mind about doing the registration/application. I’m looking for an existing entity to be on the business operator line and work with a third party or do the paperwork in exchange for being there next year, hopefully with a little income for me, mainly caring for the land and making good, clean medicine. Tpz land- I don’t wanna miss the boat. No roads to fix or messes there now so if you have a collective that can use more numbers let’s talk! May be eligible for RRR due to slope so could end up being good for 10,000sq.’ permit.

  • I am also getting sick of the bad journalism, referring to the ills of the green rush originating from “outside of the area”. Guess what, the so called Russians, Mexicans and what-have-you all learned from the people here. And you all know that ‘locals’ have been running huge indoors in the woods for decades. Let alone big gardens. The clearing MNT tops everyone is bitching about is probably more environmentally friendly than the hidden sites down int he draws with roads Cris-crossing all over creation. So get over this finger pointing. If we are talking about environmental effects, we need to be honest, and leave out all the biases about how you feel about people, or how something looks.

  • Great blog. Thanks to all.

  • Why even worry about this? Hang on for a year or two… there will be a huge sucking sound as all the industrial grows are established in the Central Valley after full Rec.

  • Sustainability needs to come first. Give established growers a time frame to get up to an agreed-upon sustainability standard, and then give those that don’t comply the boot. We all know that plenty of “tree-thuggers” won’t make the cut. It’s all only gonna last as long as the Old Republic still stands anyways, and woe be to those left behind when Babylon the Great takes over.

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