Cannabis Impacts

SYRCL wants to inspire the community to engage in sustainable and ecologically sound cannabis cultivation in the Yuba watershed. Our scientists and concerned community members recognize that the overuse of chemical pesticides and herbicides, diversion and storage of water, and alteration of the terrain and vegetation lead to pollution and algae blooms in our streams and rivers, loss of late season stream flow, and the inadvertent poisoning of wildlife.


The negative environmental impacts of cannabis cultivation range from water diversions, water pollution, the poisoning of wildlife, litter, vegetation removal, and erosion issues (Carah et al. 2015). In California, the environmental impacts of cannabis cultivation have been further exacerbated by drought conditions, compounding the impact of less water and higher temperatures for already vulnerable species and ecosystems. While only a limited number of scientific studies have been produced, there are hundreds of news articles on the topic, many of them highlighting the impacts to water and wildlife. It is estimated that the water demand to grow cannabis from both illegal and legal grow operations exceeds the amount of available surface water in many watersheds (Bauer et al. 2015).  The use of rodenticides to deter grazing have poisoned wildlife and have pushed the Pacific fisher even closer to extinction (Gabriel et al. 2013; Thompson et al. 2014).

The environmental impacts of unregulated, large-scale cannabis cultivation are real. The overuse of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides pollutes the water and poisons wildlife. Illegal water diversions result in dry creeks. Deforested and poorly graded land damages habitat for native fish and wildlife. So-called “trespass grows” on public lands wreak havoc on the landscape.

At SYRCL we address this issue through collaborative leadership, science, stewardship and education. We value a shared river environment that is safe, accessible and improved by our collective love and hard work. We know that as a community we can work together to educate each other and grow cannabis in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way.

SYRCL’s vision is that people will see that well-regulated agriculture – which is what cannabis cultivation could be – should not harm water quality, fish and wildlife. We’re addressing the sustainable cultivation issue through collaborative leadership, science, stewardship and education. As a community we can educate each other to ensure cannabis is grown in an environmentally responsible and sustainable way.