National parks are meant to be havens for plants and wildlife and places we humans can enjoy the beauty of the natural world and relax. But if you are an illegal pot farmer, they might just provide perfect cover for you to grow your drugs.
Yosemite National Park in California is the latest park authorities have found providing cover for marijuana entrepreneurs. This week, police found 3,657 marijuana plants in just one remote area. They are not revealing the exact location, but it was near Highway 140 near El Portal in the eastern part of Yosemite, on land belonging to the national park and Sierra National Forest. In the raid yesterday, they seized thousands of plants and processed marijuana valued at $14.6 million.
That’s quite a chunk of change – and it also means that quite a lot of land was used. While the trees would have remained intact to provide camouflage, it’s concerning to think about all the ground-level vegetation and fauna that was likely displaced by this. I also wonder whether the drug growers provided any extra water or fertiliser to the crops, which could disrupt the natural ecology. Our parks are fragile enough, with the eco-systems locked inside relatively small pockets of land and beset by climate change. The human impact is already great, with huge numbers of tourists visiting every year. The parks really don’t deserve to be used as cropping land as well.
This is yet another reason why governments shouldn’t even think about closing state parks to balance the budget. Just because you don’t maintain and patrol an area of land, doesn’t mean the land isn’t still there. There are responsibilities that go with owning land. (That doesn’t mean we should sell it off, either – it belongs to the people.)
It’s all a natural consequence of the lunacy of keeping marijuana illegal. I’m no pothead, but it is clear to me that legalization is the only sensible policy. Let’s bring pot growing out into the open, away from our national parks. Let’s give our farmers another cash crop to help them keep their heads above water. And let’s rescue our states from imminent bankruptcy by giving them a juicy new tax to fill their coffers. As an obvious side benefit, we’ll also reduce crime and the onerous demands on our legal and prison systems.
We’ll soon see if progress in the cards: California is about to vote on Proposition 19 to legalize marijuana.