Where There's Smoke

The Environmental Science, Public Policy, and Politics of Marijuana

Char Miller

Over the course of a year, in just one national forest in California, raids on illegal marijuana growing operations yielded 19,710 pounds of infrastructure, 138 ounces of restricted poisons, 4,595 pounds of fertilizer, 12 gallons of common pesticides, 5.6 miles of waterlines, and 102 propane bottles. Even as efforts to legalize marijuana accelerate, such “trespass grows” spread exponentially—as does their effect on the environment. The nature of this impact on the land and in the political arena is the pressing issue addressed in Where There’s Smoke. This first-of-its-kind interdisciplinary anthology draws on the insights of scientists, researchers, and activists and ranges across the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences to explore the troubling environmental consequences of illegal marijuana production on public, private, and tribal lands.

Classified as a Schedule 1 drug, marijuana has been a central focus of the so-called War on Drugs—with the perverse result of shifting marijuana production from Mexico to the United States and with unanticipated consequences for the natural environment. Where There’s Smoke assesses the broad spectrum of the policy’s effect on land and water, flora and fauna, as well as the firsthand challenges faced by those tasked with responding to this tangled and often dangerous state of affairs. In its broad scope, varied perspective, and depth of detail, the book will prove essential to an understanding of the complex social and environmental ramifications of marijuana policy and politics in the United States.

“In Where There’s Smoke scholars and field experts document firsthand in painstaking detail the damages that American-style marijuana prohibition has brought to our ‘protected’ lands. Such environmental damage is a form of ‘blowback,’ as the recent history of drug law enforcement has included taxpayer-funded aerial crop spraying campaigns abroad done with little regard to collateral damages. This volume charts some of the under-appreciated consequences of marijuana prohibition’s ‘carceral ecology,’ which creates a scenario of perverse incentives in which an easily grown common plants flower buds become worth their weight in gold and beyond. With contributions from marijuana law reformers, this volume is balanced and does force the reader to recognize the limits of state-level legalization to allay environmental damage when much larger forces of prohibition are still at work.”

—Sunil Kumar Aggarwal, MD, PhD, FAAPMR Physician-Scientist and Medical Geographer

“The topic of the environmental impact of marijuana growing is understudied and the book provides new concepts, data and interpretations to guide both future research and policy development provides a new forum for the marijuana legalization debate. It fills a glaring gap in the literature and will be foundational for future research and policy development. While there have been a relatively large number books on the unintended consequences of marijuana prohibition and the war on drugs, this is the first book to exclusively take a true multidisciplinary focus on an intractable public policy dilemma; either a massive infusion of resources to eradicate the marijuana growing sites with concomitant refurbishing of the land or legalization of marijuana in order to create a new supply-side regulatory dynamic and to separate the marijuana market from the current Schedule 1 illegal drug market.”

—Charles D. Kaplan, Research Professor and AssociateDean of Research, Hamovitch Center for Science in theHuman Services

About the Author

Char Miller is the W. M. Keck Professor of Environmental Analysis at Pomona College and the author and editor of many books on environmental history and public lands, including, as author, Not So Golden State: Sustainability vs. the California Dream; America’s Great National Forests, Wildernesses, and Grasslands (with photographer Tim Palmer); and Seeking the Greatest Good: The Conservation Legacy of Gifford Pinchot. He also edited American Forests: Nature, Culture, and Politics, published by Kansas.