Watch CBS News

Dangerous Pesticides Prompt Fight Against Illegal Pot Grows

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – It's a new attack on illegal pot farms that are poisoning the environment, killing animals and now possibly poisoning humans. The State of California is joining forces with the federal government to crack down on illegal pot grows.

"There are areas in the forest now that have gone from pristine to being killing zones," said Bill Ruzzamenti, a High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area director.

U.S. Forest Service officials say every year acres of marijuana are illegally planted on public land. It's an issue they are calling urgent with devastating effects on water, animals, and hunters.

"It's a danger to public safety, it's a danger to public land and it's a danger to our wildlife!" said Xavier Becerra, California attorney general.

For 20 years, the National Forest Service has found an average of 400 illegal pot grows a year. That's more than one grow every single day.

"It's really having a devastating effect on our national forest!" said Randy Moore, with the USDA.

But U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott, Eastern District of California says the problem is now much worse thanks to a pesticide called carbofuran. It's been illegal in California for the last decade.

"This is a gamechanger because it is a lethal poison," he said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Scott says the drug cartels are not using it as a pesticide but instead kill animals to keep them from eating the marijuana plants. Roughly 50 percent of the soil tested by the Forest Service is contaminated with the pesticide. And it's pushing two species to the brink of extinction: the Pacific fisher and California spotted owl.

"About 70 percent of our spotted owls have been affected by these same grow sites!" Moore said.

The California National Guard is adding 70 more agents to its counterdrug task force and they say they're ready to work with local law enforcement to push out illegal growers for good.

"This is something that's going to affect all of us and we've got to get to it," Becerra said.

Officials say California now produces more marijuana than Mexico and most of it goes to buyers outside the state.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.