The U.S. Forest Service has in the past come under fire for its handling of illegal marijuana cultivation sites. Most of the unregulated growers use dangerous chemicals that pollute nearby waterways and in some cases, they clear entire sections of natural forest to plant their crop. The Forest Service has been accused of not always reclaiming and rehabilitating the grow sites after the marijuana has been eradicated, and for reportedly exposing employees to the harmful chemicals at the sites without proper protection.
In response to these concerns, the agency has announced that it will hire a hazardous materials consulting firm to train employees on how to safely remove marijuana grown on public lands under a newly awarded government contract. According to a document filed in support of the contract and posted last week to the U.S. General Services Administration Website, a large number of Forest Service agents and officers fell ill at public lands, “requiring trips to the emergency room with possible long term health effects.”
Agents with the Forest Service’s South Pacific Southwest Region will now be trained by NES, a leading hazardous materials consultant and training company that has worked extensively with law enforcement, and they will have to pass a hazmat class before they can take part in a cannabis clearing operation. The document states that the NES program “is the only training course in the U.S. available that meets our needs, and has met OSHA standards.” The program will cost taxpayers an estimated $44,732, and there will be no bidding process or consideration of competing firms.
In April 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General stated that the Forest Service doesn’t always reclaim and rehabilitate illicit marijuana grow sites after clearing the crop and as a result, “trash and chemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers are still present in these grow sites, thereby putting the public, wildlife, and environment at risk of contamination.” Marijuana legalization advocates have said for years that legalizing the plant will go a long way in reducing and eventually eliminating the environmental and health threats posed by the chemical contaminants used at illegal marijuana grow sites.
“It’s no surprise that those who elect to clandestinely cultivate cannabis on federal lands engage in practices that provide greater potential risks both to the environment and the end product itself,” says Paul Armentano, Deputy Director advocacy group NORML. “By contrast, a legal market provides regulatory oversight and demands that those engaged in these activities be licensed and utilize best practices. While legalization itself will likely not entirely eliminate the illicit market, just as, for instance, border alcohol legalization has not eliminated moon-shining in its entirety, the reality is that it will continue to severely curtail thee activities and the involvement of criminal entrepreneurs.”
The step taken to train federal agents in the best ways to eliminate illegal marijuana grows is likely to be applauded by the entire cannabis industry, including Pure Extracts Corp.
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