As an older teenager and a young adult who was a user of recreational marijuana, I remember that I always supported the legalization of marijuana. However, as a mature adult who has, hopefully, gained some wisdom over the years, I find my attitude toward legalization changing due to a few social and scientific realities.
First of all, what is pot? Pot is agriculture, and agriculture constitutes the number-one cause of water pollution due to three factors: sedimentation, nutrients and chemicals. And in the case of animal agriculture, add to that list pathogens. The difference between pot and most of the other vegetables used in agriculture is that most vegetables are used for nutrition to sustain human life. Marijuana agriculture is not necessary to sustain human life, in most cases.
We all are aware how money from the wine industry influences local politicians. We are also aware how the wine industry has hurt local biodiversity levels as well as the drain on the water supply and its effect on fish populations. If pot becomes legalized, the amount of money generated in the industry will help to spawn a whole new generation of lobbyists and the political prostitutes they so dearly love. Will all of the problems created by the wine industry be made worse by a bunch of money grubbing, nitrogen dumping, sediment creating, agricultural monstrosities likes Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, Gallo, etc?
The term "unintended consequences" comes to mind when I ponder this subject. A recent study by the University of Mississippi concluded that legalization of marijuana in Colorado caused a substantial increase in housing prices. Is there any reason to think that wouldn't happen here? Considering our already skyrocketing rents, how much will legalization exacerbate the problem?
As the (over)population of California approaches 40 million, voters need to be extra careful about what type of industry we permit to establish itself in a state already burdened by social and environmental problems. If there were only 4 million people in California, I might jump on the legalization train, but the infrastructure is already too strained. Let's think of the big picture. Will we have to build a new desalination plant at Bodega Bay to support this industry? If we desire to be truly sustainable, at some point we have to stop making money the number one consideration. Perhaps this would be a good place to start.
Doug Haymaker is an environmental science student at Santa Rosa Junior College and founder of the Clean Oceans Campaign.
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