Cannabis, as either a medicinal or recreational drug, is now legal in more than 30 U.S. states and in several countries. Cannabis leaves a small spatial footprint but has potentially significant environmental impacts. To mitigate these impacts, policymakers and planners need to enact specific environmental and land-use regulations to control cannabis crop expansion during this early stage in its development.
The cannabis grows results in more forest loss and greater fragmentation of the landscape, breaking up the large, contiguous forest into smaller patches and reducing wildlife habitat. Planting cannabis for commercial production in remote locations is creating forest fragmentation, stream modification, soil erosion and landslides. Without land-use policies to limit its environmental footprint, the impacts of cannabis farming could get worse.
Further, when making policy decisions about marijuana, it is important to consider how those policies can affect teenagers. Youth are affected most by such things. In states that legalize recreational marijuana, it is important to prevent youth who use marijuana from escalating their use.