Illegal pesticides and fertilizers used on illicit marijuana farms growing in California’s national forests are creating an environment toxic enough to poison people on contact, Reuters reports.
Seven people, five of them law enforcement officers, have been hospitalized for skin rashes, respiratory problems and other ailments.
“These places aren’t safe to go into,” State Assembly member Jim Wood told Reuters.
Wood supports allocating state funds to clean up the infected farming sites, a job that could cost more than $1 million in California, Reuters reports.
Marijuana has become a multibillion dollar industry in California, bringing in $2.8 billion in 2015. California residents voted to make the use of recreational marijuana legal in 2016 under Proposition 64, The Atlantic reports.
However, selling marijuana is still illegal, and will remain so until the start of 2018.
Some analysts predict the market for pot will more than double in value by 2020. The promise of high profits, combined with the current selling prohibition on marijuana, has encouraged a black market. Growers take advantage of California’s vast public forests to farm marijuana in secret, according to The Atlantic.
The U.S. Forest Service estimated the amount of solid fertilizers and liquid pesticides used in California forests in 2013. The most recent estimates of the amount of chemicals in the forests have skyrocketed since then, however, with experts assessing that 41 times more fertilizer and 80 times more pesticide are now in California’s forests, according to Reuters.
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