Massive 75,000 Acre California Wildfire Caused by Marijuana Farm


Photo via CBC
Could Legalizing Marijuana Help Prevent Forest Fires?
Authorities have determined that a wildfire currently raging in Santa Barbara county was started in a marijuana farm. According to the LA Times, the fire began in "a cooking area of the pot farm" and the farmers responsible fled, and may still be trying to escape the forest on foot. The fire, which is only 25% contained, has already consumed 75,000 acres and forced hundreds of people to evacuate. But could this have been prevented with regulation? I pose the question: while we know that legalizing marijuana could be good for the environment in general, could it help prevent forest fires as well?It's a question worth asking--now that there are a record amount of drug cartel-run marijuana growing operations in national forests around the country (mostly in western states), there's an ever growing possibility that another fire could originate from one of them. The operations are of course illegal, so not only do they avoid regulation and oversight, but they're likely to be hastily and recklessly conducted. Fires are more likely to start under such conditions.

So the same argument that can be made for legalizing marijuana to benefit the environment (more transparent operations subjected to state regulations could deter water contamination, soil degradation, unnecessary deforestation, etc) can be made for legalizing marijuana to prevent forest fires. Which is of course a benefit to the environment, most of the time.

I wouldn't necessarily advocate trying to push for marijuana legalization on these grounds (tax revenue generation probably finds more public interest), but it's something to consider--and I think it's a solid case. I'd wager that if marijuana were legalized nationally, we'd see a slight improvement in national forest health and perhaps a few thousand less acres falling victim to forest fires.

More on California Wildfires
A Picture is Worth... Northern California's Wildfires
NASA Satellite Pictures Capture Wildfires ' Breadth

Tags: Agriculture | California | Conservation | Economics

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