While many Santa Barbarans cheer California’s legalization of marijuana, what would nature-loving John Muir say?
The Sierra Club’s magazine Sierra, for one, is horrified at the environmental devastation it fears from the expected “green rush” of unregulated ripping up of the green hills of California.
The price of those relaxing tokes that smokers enjoy is already being paid in the form of “grows” that tear wide swatches in forests of the Golden State and elsewhere, leaving behind soil soaked with toxic chemicals, trash, improvised roads, and medical cannabis contaminated by illegal pesticides, Sierra says.
Darkening the whole picture is a looming figure over California and other states: President Trump’s Attorney General/Corn Pone Jeff Sessions, who’s declared war on pot — which, as you know, is illegal under federal law. The feds have generally overlooked your average pot-smoker but now could come down hard on the kind of pot shops and industrial-sized marijuana “factories” I saw during a recent trip of the Seattle area of legal-pot Washington.
Sessions seems to be taking a highly moralistic approach. “Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” Sessions told a Senate drug hearing last year. Really? I know of one high-profile Santa Barbaran active in philanthropic circles who cultivates the weed in his beautiful garden.
Even if you don’t inhale, chances are that people you know do, privately and hush-hush. People I know say it’s too late to stop the marijuana revolution. For one thing, there’s too much money to be made, unless of course the feds drive pot underground again.
“Last year, the value of the legal-pot market was expected to exceed $7 billion [across the nation] while estimates of the total market — licit and illicit — were as high as $45 billion,” Sierra said.
The magazine recited a litany of the hazards to nature caused by cannabis “grows”: Thirsty plants consume six gallons of water a day during a drought, resulting in pot farmers drying up or diverting streams that wildlife like salmon rely on; heavy doses of pesticides, herbicides, and rodenticides have dire effects on forest soils.
“The poisons are lethal to Pacific fishers, a weasel-like mammal that is already a candidate for the endangered-species list.”
Legal-pot state Colorado had to issue recalls of plants contaminated by the endocrine disruptor myclobutanil, whatever that is, but it sounds like something bad that might catch up with you someday. Be careful what you put in your mouth: “In California, one testing company found pesticide in 84 percent of medical cannabis samples,” Sierra reported.
Then, Sierra pointed out, there’s the energy situation. While the average Seattle office building uses about 18 kilowatt-hours per square foot, indoor cannabis operations with high-tech temperature control systems and high-intensity lighting, like the generic-looking places I drove by, use about 300 kilowatt hours per foot.
But all is not lost, Sierra said. Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana use in California in 2016, “offers a beacon of hope.”
A 20 percent tax on the sale and cultivation of marijuana, an amount likely to exceed $200 million a year, will be available to repair damaged lands and hire staff to monitor and enforce environmental laws.
Put all that in your pipe and smoke it.
BUT SERIOUSLY, FOLKS
We all need a laugh now and then, and the comedy being staged by the Theatre Group at Santa Barbara City College is just the ticket. A Flea in Her Ear is a door-slamming, maid-screaming, uproariously funny farce starring a cast of seasoned actors. The classic bedroom sex farce (sans nudity) was written by Georges Feydeau in 1907 and brought up to date by David Ives. A great deal of silliness ensues, involving suspected adultery, mistaken identity, rapid changes of clothing, and much tomfoolery.
Congratulations to director R. Michael Gros for somehow directing the stage traffic and making sure the doors slam at the opportune time. It runs through March 18 at SBCC’s Garvin Theatre.
The increasingly bizarre behavior of President Donald Trump brings to mind the eccentric and wacky Captain Philip Francis Queeg in the Pulitzer-winning novel, then play, and movie The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk. Wouk served aboard two destroyer-minesweepers during World War II.