Study finds legalization reduces illegal growing in national forests
Well here’s yet another great benefit of cannabis legalization in the US, as if we needed even more. A study in the journal of Ecological Economics (weirdly specific) says illegal grow operations on federal lands were reduced after legalization happened in multiple US states. Illegal cannabis grows in national forests are a problem that’s bigger than you think — not only do illegal growers ravage federal lands when they invade and use pesticides while growing, but they can also cause crime, or be a real danger for wandering hikers or campers. But this study, using data from the US Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, says that in addition to all of legalization’s other benefits, making cannabis legal nationwide could essentially eliminate the problem completely.
Which makes sense — in a legal cannabis market, growers wouldn’t have to hide on federal lands, and could instead find and buy their own farms to grow on. But the other interesting thing to note here is that the authors of the study also think that the type of legalization matters. Mere decriminalization for possession of cannabis, for example, likely wouldn’t reduce illegal grows as much — it might just embolden illegal growers where they are. Putting stricter penalties on illegal production can reduce illegal grows (but that comes with other problems, of course, like tying up law enforcement, and reducing diversity and innovation in growing).
Of all of the moves that can reduce illegal grows, say the researchers, lowering taxes might be the best one. Lowering taxes on cannabis by 6 to 13 percent, according to the research, can make illegal grows much less profitable — lowering taxes would boost the legal market and its income, and would essentially crowd illegal product and growers out of the marketplace. Illegal cannabis grows are definitely an ongoing issue in our national forests, and this research says that supporting and developing a legal cannabis market can eventually bring that concern to an end.