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Social and Environmental Impacts of Illegal Cannabis Grow Operations in the U.S.

Authors: Barney Warf*, University of Kansas
Topics: Cultural Ecology, Social Geography
Keywords: cannabis, drugs
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Given the recent moves toward legalization, the cannabis industry has received enormous popular and rising academic scrutiny. However, illegal grow operations remain underexamined. This paper looks at the changing geography of trespass grow sites, including their dispersal from the Golden Triangle of California to national forests in Appalachia and elsewhere. It notes the multitudinous environmental impacts, including the use of fertilizers, pesticides, and rodenticides, and their impacts on wildlife. It also addresses the highly exploitative labor conditions, including undocumented immigrants working in slave-like conditions for Mexican cartels. Finally, it turns to the question as to whether cannabis legalization will diminish or accelerate the number and size of illegal grow sites.

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