We must study marijuana’s impact on the environment before it’s too late
While all admirable and necessary warnings, this focus on human health has highlighted the notable lack of public or governmental discussion on the potential impact of cannabis on the environment, and in particular on North America’s abundant supplies of fresh water.
Often featuring in the lower rungs of priority when it comes to determining the safety of a drug, the impact of a pharmaceutical on the freshwater environment can be significant on the health of lakes, rivers and those who reside nearby.
The gamut is wide and worrying — from limpets in the UK no longer able to cling on to rocks for survival as they “bathe in a soup” of antidepressants to Canadian male fish growing eggs in their testes after being exposed to the synthetic estrogen found in birth control pills.
‘When it comes to marijuana, a lot of the research and legislation is patchy and regionally specific.’ Photograph: Chris Wattie/Reuters
These examples should serve as a reminder that when deeming a drug fit for market, we should research and factor in its impact on the environment and water systems.
As the tide of marijuana legalization seems to be steadily sweeping North America, it also highlights how the USA and Canada, with our shared watersheds and borderless water movement, need to put our heads together on this issue.
When it comes to marijuana, a lot of the research and legislation is patchy and regionally specific. In Canada, some legislation exists to limit the use of more than 95 pesticides that can be used by licensed cannabis producers. There is also guidance to prevent these compounds from leeching into nearby water bodies and reaching its flora and fauna.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of fresh water to North America’s economy and peoples. The five mammoth Great Lakes alone account for 21% of the globe’s freshwater supplies and no fewer than 35 million Americans and Canadians depend on them for their drinking water.
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